Air Defender 23

(c) Bundeswehr/Marco Parge
(c) Bundeswehr/Marco Parge

One of the Largest exercises in NATO history since the end of the Cold War will kick off on the 12th of June. The exercise aims to train and expand the rapid deployment capability and the integration of the participating forces under a NATO Article 5 scenario. More than 10,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft will be involved in this exercise, most of which will be provided by the US Air National Guard. In the weeks leading up, around 100 aircraft from 42 US states made their way across the Atlantic Ocean. The Key operation locations during the exercise are Jagel, Hohn, Wunstorf, and Lechfeld, as well as Spangdahlem, Volkel (NL), and Čáslav (CZ). In addition to the United States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Hungary also take part to participate in the exercise. A large part of the approximately 250 participating aircraft maneuvers will take place in one of three large exercise air spaces north, south, and east. Furthermore, missions will take place to the Baltic States in the east and Romania in the south.

(C)Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig
(C)Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig


The first day of the exercise started with a big Familizationflight with all participants to familiarize themselves with the Airspace, procedures and to check where appropriate landing options are in the event of an emergency all of this has to be taken into account in an exercise this size. Also, unlike what we knew from other large-scale exercises like Red Flag, there were no mass take-off and landing phases. During Air Defender the Flights took off in so-called Strike packages like they would in real-world scenarios. Those packages then proceed into different airspaces or into the Baltics and the Romanian area of operations. In the following video, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz points out the challenges and why such an exercise cannot simply be simulated on the computer. 

During Air Defender training was not only carried out in the air but also on the ground. For example, the construction and operation of forward arming and refueling points, so-called FARPs. These are supply points, which are usually closer to the operational areas and thus significantly shorten the turnaround time, but the short-term relocation of smaller units to other locations was also practiced during the two weeks, for example, jets from the main locations Hohn and Jagel were repeatedly relocated to Lithuania, Estonia or even Lechfeld.

Video by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Schumann, 127th Wing Public Affairs

Die Standorte...

Der Logistik Hub , Wunstorf

Genneralleutnant Ingo Gerhartz explains the importance of  Wunstorf  for the Air Defender exercise


Eagles and the Navy - Fliegerhorst Hohn ETNH

During Air Defender, Hohn Air Base was home to F-15Cs from Louisiana and Massachusetts, F-18Cs from the Finnish Air Force, and participants from Carrier Air Wing 8 of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

Warthogs, Vipers and Co. - Jagel ETNS

As the main operating location, Jagel was home to a large number of units during Air Defender, so in addition to the German Tornados, F-16s from the Air National Guard from Colorado and South Dakota, A-10Cs from Maryland and Michigan, and Saab Gripens flew from here Hungarian Air Force from Kesckemet and Turkish Air Force F-16 from Merzifon. During the exercise, many political and NATO representatives also visited Jagel.

Taskforce South - Lechfeld [ETSL], Neuburg [ETSN]

Lechfeld Air Base also plays a vital role during the exercise. As one of the Air Force's southernmost air bases, it will be the temporary home of around 340 participants, as well as 6 A-10Cs from the Idaho Air National Guard's 124th Fighter Wing and 3 F-16Cs from the Hellenic Air Force's 347 Mira. Two weeks ahead of the exercise, the first transport planes arrived with personnel and material. Also, the German Air force deployed four of its H145 to Lechfeld. Together with its Spanish counterparts, the Tactical Air Wing 74 took part out of its home base Neuburg .

Resümee from the Generalinspekteurs of the Luftwaffe ,Generalleutnant Ingo Gerhartz

Text: Robin Manhart, Peter Stierhof Fotos: Robin Manhart, Peter Stierhof, Bundeswehr, DVIDS Videos: Martin Bender, DVIDS, Bundeswehr

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.