National Guard jets from US touch down in Germany for NATO’s largest ever aerial drills
Stars and Stripes June 6, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Pentagon’s planes have begun arriving for a NATO exercise that amasses the largest deployment of allied aircraft in Europe since the formation of the bloc in 1949.
C-130 Hercules from Air National Guard wings in Illinois, Georgia, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and Arkansas flew into Wunstorf Air Base in northwestern Germany this week for Air Defender 23, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa said Tuesday.
The German military is leading an assembly of 25 allies and partner nations, along with about 220 aircraft and 10,000 personnel, with a focus on managing and directing the collective air power from its own airfields.
The U.S. contribution includes nearly 100 aircraft from more than 40 Air National Guard units.
The 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base will send F-16 combat jets, USAFE-AFAFRICA said. Spangdahlem also is one of the exercise’s designated sites.
Scenarios to be practiced revolve around Article 5, which calls for all NATO countries to respond when one member comes under attack. It is the cornerstone of the U.S.-led alliance.
The goals for the exercise are comprehensive, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, chief of the German air force, said in a statement in April.
“We want to demonstrate the agility and swiftness of air forces as a first responder and showcase NATO airpower,” Gerhartz said.
Though the historic aviation drills coming to Germany’s skies are being held as NATO continues to bolster its defenses more than a year into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, exercise planning began back in 2018, according to the German armed forces’ website.
The training kicks off Monday and will continue until June 23, USAFE-AFAFRICA said. It will be held mostly in Germany, extending over northern Brandenburg, parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the Baltic Sea, according to the website.
The airspace is reserved for low-level flights for three hours at a time every day during the exercise. Sporadic low-level flights also will take place at the Baumholder and Grafenwoeher military training sites, the German military said.
Locations in the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia will be used during the exercise as well.
To prepare for the influx of planes, the largest mobile fuel warehouse ever to be constructed in Germany was built at Wunstorf, according to the German armed forces’ website.
The tanks can supply about 264,000 gallons every 24 hours, which is enough capacity to fill up about 20,000 cars per day, the website said.