Planning for the training started in 2018. But fighting is escalating on NATO’s doorstep in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces, backed by arms from Western allies, are mounting an offensive to retake territory seized by Russia after President Vladimir Putin invaded last year. V. Putin.
Officials involved in the 25-nation NATO exercise said it sends a message of alliance unity.
Amy Goodman, the US ambassador to Germany, told reporters last week that “I would be very surprised if any world leader didn’t notice what this represents, given the spirit of this alliance.” Putin included.”
The exercise, known as Air Defender, is led by the German government and brings together the largest number of aircraft from outside Germany for a training mission since NATO was founded in 1949. The US sent about 100 National Guard and Navy aircraft to Germany for exercises.
The 12-day event began with an air show in Wunstorf, northern Germany, featuring cargo and refueling planes — the workhorse planes that were crucial for getting weapons and supplies to Ukraine. Pilots at five other bases across Germany conduct other missions with fighter jets, the showhorses of the sky.
The exercise comes just weeks after the U.S. reluctantly agreed to train Ukrainian troops and eventually receive U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets as part of a long-term, not just ongoing conflict with Russia. Preventive strategy.
Germany’s Air Force General Ingo Gerhardt, who oversees the air defender, said it was not “directed at anyone” and insisted that no offensive scenarios would be carried out. “We are a defense alliance, so this exercise will be defensive in nature,” General Gerhardt told reporters in Berlin.
But General Gerharts said when he proposed the exercise in 2018, “the trigger for me then was the seizure of Crimea, four years ago Mr. Putin annexed the Ukrainian peninsula”. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, General Gerharts said NATO’s eastern allies, closest to Russia, have been asking for assurances that the alliance will defend them in the event of Moscow aggression.
Twenty-four NATO countries – including the alliance’s newest member, Finland – are participating in the exercises, and Japan has joined as an observer. Last month, officials in Japan said NATO was considering opening a liaison office in the country amid growing concerns among Western countries about China’s support for Russia. It is NATO’s first office in Asia.
One goal of Air Defender is to test how aircraft from multiple states interact with each other, said Douglas Barry, a military aerospace expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a research institute in London.
Mr. Barry said. But mostly, he said, the exercises were part of a “signaling” campaign — to show Mr. Letting Putin know.
Even though the exercises were planned years in advance, Mr. Barry said, “I would be very surprised, if the coalition didn’t see this as part of its overall messaging strategy, we would say.”
Military organizers have promised that the exercise will have little impact on civilian air traffic, as much of the fighting will take place in the North and Baltic Seas.
In Berlin last week, Lt. Gen. Michael A., who directs the US Air National Guard. Low said, “We expect minimal disruption to the flow of civilian airlines.
However, the union for German air traffic control warned in May that the exercise could lead to “massive” disruptions.
Christopher F. Schütze Contributed reporting from Berlin.