In June, "Air Defender 23", the largest air operation exercise in NATO's history, will take place in Germany. A map shows where exactly the maneuver takes place.
Cologne – It is a manoeuvre of superlatives that will take place in and above all over Germany in June. We are talking about the "Air Defender" exercise, in which 25 nations with over 200 aircraft, including many fighter jets, will participate. "Air Defender 23 is the largest deployment exercise of air forces since NATO was founded," the Bundeswehr said. When does the exercise take place? Where will the fighter jets be seen? And which nations are participating? We answer the most important questions in this overview.
What exactly is Air Defender 23?
Under the name "Air Defender 23", a major German-led exercise will take place in June 2023, in which NATO is participating. "The 25 partners and NATO are practicing the joint response capability of their air forces in a crisis situation," the Bundeswehr said. The German Luftwaffe has the leadership of the operation. Germany acts as a so-called "defence hub" in Europe. According to the Bundeswehr, Air Defender is the largest air operation exercise since NATO was founded in 1949.
"The aim is to optimize and expand the cooperation of the participating nations and at the same time to show strength in the alliance," explains the Bundeswehr. The 25 participating NATO partners are taking part in the exercise with 220 aircraft and fighter jets, including 100 from the USA alone.
When will Air Defender 23 take place and where can I watch the Air Force exercise?
Air Defender 23 runs from June 12 to June 23. In principle, the fighter jets and other aircraft will then fly over Germany from Monday to Friday in three flight corridors, divided into north, east and south. No exercises are scheduled on weekends. For each flight corridor, the airspace is then closed to civil air traffic at certain times and may only be used for military purposes. The following list refers to the current planning of the Air Force. There could still be changes.
On this map, the Bundeswehr shows the training airspaces of the Air Defender 2023 maneuver. © Bundeswehr/Marco Parge
Flight Corridor North:
► Area: large parts of Schleswig-Holstein, the north and west of Lower Saxony, the north of North Rhine-Westphalia (north of Münster), parts of the North Sea
► Flight altitude (above sea level): Depending on the region, between flight level 080 (approx. 2438 meters) and flight level 660 (approx. 18,470 meters)
► Period: From June 12 to June 16: 16 p.m. to 20 p.m.; June 19 to June 23: 16 p.m. to 20 p.m.
Flight Corridor South:
► Area: Saarland, the south of Rhineland-Palatinate, parts of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria
► Flight altitude (above sea level): Depending on the region, between flight level 100 (approx. 2900 meters) and flight level 660 (approx. 18,470 meters)
► Period: From June 12 to June 16: 13 p.m. to 17 p.m.; June 19 to June 23: 13 p.m. to 17 p.m.
Flight Corridor East:
► Area: Parts of the Baltic Sea, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Berlin, and Saxony
► Flight altitude (above sea level): Depending on the region, between flight level 100 (approx. 2,900 meters) and flight level 660 (approx. 18,470 meters)
► Period: From June 12 to June 16: 10 p.m. to 14 p.m.; June 19 to June 23: 10 p.m. to 14 p.m.
At which bases will Air Defender jets be stationed?
In total, there will be seven bases for Air Defender 23 in Germany, where the fighter jets of the Air Force and other nations will be stationed. These seven bases are:
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- Schleswig-Jagel Air Base (Schleswig-Holstein)
- Hohn Air Base (Schleswig-Holstein)
- Lechfeld Air Base (Bavaria)
- Wunstorf Air Base (Lower Saxony)
- Neuburg Air Base (Bavaria)
- NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen (North Rhine-Westphalia)
- Airbase Spangdahlem (Rhineland-Palatinate)
Schleswig/Hohn, Wunstort and Lechfeld are considered the main hubs for the exercise. Therefore, by far the most fighter jets will be stationed there. According to the Air Force, additional missions will also be launched from Spangdahlem as well as from Volkel in the Netherlands and Čáslav in the Czech Republic.
Which nations are participating in Air Defender 23?
In addition to Germany, 24 other NATO member countries are participating in Air Defender 23. In addition to Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, these include Finland, the youngest NATO member. A complete list of the participating countries can be found here:
- United States
- United Kingdom
All participating nations are to relocate their aircraft to Germany in the week before the exercise.
Among other things, the US Air Force is participating in "Air Defender 35" with F-2023 fighter jets. (Assembly ID) © Shannon E. Renfroe / USAF
Air Defender launches in June: What else is happening in recent weeks
Even though Air Defender does not start until June 12, the Bundeswehr Air Force has been involved in the major project for weeks and months. At the moment, however, it is really going into the hot phase. "At the moment, the final preparations are in full swing," explains Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Boehnke when asked by 24RHEIN of Ippen.Media. The accommodations are currently still being set up. After all, around 10,000 soldiers are also expected. Work is also still underway on the necessary IT infrastructure. But the Air Force is optimistic. "We are on the right track, but there is still plenty of work to be done," says Boehnke. (bs)