Largest NATO air exercise in alliance history will include hundreds of US air guard members

South Korea Koreas Tensions
In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, top center, fly in formation with South Korea’s Air Force F-35A fighter jets and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets, top right, over the South Korea Peninsula during a joint air drill in South Korea, Sunday, March 19, 2023. AP

Largest NATO air exercise in alliance history will include hundreds of US air guard members

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NATO will launch its largest air exercise in history this summer. It will include over 10,000 forces from 24 nations, including the United States.

Approximately half of the forces in “Exercise Air Defender” will belong to the U.S. Air National Guard. It’s dispatching units from 46 wings nationwide with hundreds of guard members. The exercise is slated for June 12-23 and aims to project a united front in Europe amid Russia’s yearlong war in Ukraine.

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The trip marks the Air Guard’s biggest trans-Atlantic deployment since the Gulf War, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh said at a media briefing Wednesday. Finland, the alliance’s newest member, will also participate in the exercise.

“This is now putting the alliance together quickly, with a credible force, to make sure that if Russia ever lines up on the NATO border, that we’re ready to go,” Loh said. “We’re going to defend every inch.”

The demonstration will include three different challenges. The first will be a defensive counterair challenge, the second will be focused on close air support and ground attack, and the third will be an offensive counterair attack. The attacks will include simulated surface-to-air missiles, electronic communication jammers, and simulations of other real threats.

Loh said the event will offer guard units the chance to gain valuable training and experience in Europe while working alongside their European counterparts.

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Participating vehicles include the U.S. Air Force’s A-10C attack plane; F-15C, F-16, and F-35A fighter jets; MQ-9 reconnaissance and attack drones; C-17 and C-130H cargo aircraft; and KC-46 and KC-135 tankers, according to the Military Times. There will also be U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighters, NATO E-3 airborne target-tracking jets, and approximately a dozen other types of aircraft.

U.S. troops will begin arriving in Europe on May 29, almost two weeks before the operation begins. Most flights will take place over three regions of Germany and the North Sea, but troops will also practice quick-turn missions to remote airfields in Eastern Europe.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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