A German air force Typhoon fighter is displayed for an open-base event at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin in August 2022.

A German air force Typhoon fighter is displayed for an open-base event at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin in August 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Four European countries will deploy air forces to the Indo-Pacific this summer to train alongside the United States and other nations.

Pacific Skies, a series of exercises between mid-June and mid-August, will involve 1,800 airmen and aircraft from Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, Germany’s air force said in a news release Tuesday.

Those airmen will train alongside forces from the U.S., Australia, Japan and India, according to the release.

“By participating in Pacific Skies 24, we as Europeans are showing presence in a part of the world that is of great importance to all of us,” Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, chief of the German air force, said in the statement.

The Pacific training is happening at a time when European forces are focused closer to home in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The U.K., France and Germany sent 13 Typhoon and Rafale fighters, seven tanker/cargo planes and more than 350 airmen to the Indo-Pacific later that year to participate in drills, including Pitch Black. The biennial training included more than 100 aircraft from 17 nations in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Aircraft participating in Pacific Skies will join Pitch Black again and fly over Hawaii during the multinational Rim of the Pacific exercise in late July, according to the German statement.

Pacific Skies kicks off with the Low Level Training exercise in Alaska, June 17-29, before moving to Arctic Fender, also in Alaska, July 8-18. Then it’s Nippon Skies with Japan and Tarang Shakti with India in Aug. 7-14.

The statement did not provide a date or location for the training with Japan or a location for the training with India.

Germany will send 12 Tornado multirole combat jets, eight Eurofighters, four A400M Atlas transport planes and four light utility helicopters to the drills, the statement said. Spain will send four Eurofighters and two A400Ms, and France will send four Rafale fighters, three A400Ms and three multirole A330 tankers.

“The exercises will see the participants practice low-level flights, air attacks, air defense, and air refueling,” the statement said. “Through joint training, the partners will increase their operational capability and prove that in an emergency they will be able to enforce the principles of a rules-based international order.”

Pacific Air Forces did not immediately respond to emailed questions about the training on Thursday.

The training is designed to show that the air forces can operate in everything from tropical to arctic conditions across long distances in coordination with non-NATO partners and India, said Paul Buchanan, an American security expert based in New Zealand.

“The idea is ‘those who train together fight better together’ regardless of who the enemy may be,” he told Stars and Stripes in an email Thursday.

The involvement of European aircraft in the Indo-Pacific exercises boosts deterrence, said Ralph Cossa, a retired U.S. Air Force officer and former president of the Pacific Forum think tank in Hawaii.

“Even if the odds are low, they would deploy in a Taiwan contingency,” he said by email Wednesday. “The possibility that they would has to be factored into Chinese strategic thinking.”

European aircraft could also be important gap fillers in South Korea, if the U.S. Air Force had to redeploy from bases in the peninsula in a Taiwan contingency, Cossa said.

NATO statements now include the phrase “Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

“An exercise presence puts credibility behind those words,” Cossa said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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