U.S. Navy F18 jets are parked at Hohn Air Force Base. They will take part in the exercise "Air Defender 23". © Markus Scholz/dpa
In a week's time, the largest deployment exercise of air forces since the founding of NATO will start over Germany. There are restrictions on civil aviation, but these are to be kept to a minimum.
Jakarta/Berlin - One week before the major air force exercise "Air Defender 2023", Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has emphasized the importance for the security of Germany and its allies. At the same time, the SPD politician said on the sidelines of a trip to Asia: "Of course, we are doing everything we can to keep the impact on the population and civil aviation as low as possible. To this end, we have been coordinating very closely with all parties involved for months."
From 12 June to 23 June, 25 nations and 10,000 soldiers with 250 aircraft, including 70 aircraft from Germany, will take part in the "Air Defender" manoeuvre under German leadership. NATO is involved.
"With Air Defender 2023, the largest deployment exercise of air forces since NATO was founded, we are strengthening the alliance and transatlantic relations. Together with our allies, we are demonstrating that we can defend the alliance's territory in a responsive and powerful manner," said Pistorius, who is visiting the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Jakarta: "With "Air Defender 2023" (...) we will strengthen the alliance and transatlantic relations." © Britta Pedersen/dpa
Air forces can be deployed quickly in a crisis due to their range and speed. In particular, the transfer across the Atlantic from the USA with about 100 aircraft shows how reinforcements are brought in. The Inspector of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, had presented the concept in the USA in 2018.
Geopolitical scenario: Fight against the Occasus Alliance
"Scenarios such as fighting drones or cruise missiles are practiced. And also the defense of airports as well as seaports," said a spokesman for the air force of the dpa. It is trained how a fictitious attack by an eastern aggressor (referred to as OCCASUS) on the alliance territory - here on Germany - is jointly repelled by the NATO allies.
NATO's years-long confrontation with OCCASUS has reached the bottom of the Federal Republic of Germany in this scenario. "Special forces of the Brückner organization and other troops of OCCASUS could be smuggled into Germany from the east. Now air and ground forces are occupying the entire Klebius region, about a quarter of the country," the Bundeswehr writes. The OCCASUS alliance is trying to advance north to the Baltic Sea and take possession of the port of Rostock. In doing so, they use a mixture of sabotage actions and the use of special forces supported from the air. The fictitious consequence is that the Western alliance triggers a state of defense under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.
"Massive impact on the conduct of civil aviation"
During the two-week operation, three airspaces are to be closed to civil aviation with a time delay from Monday to Friday. The military exercise can also disrupt parts of civilian flight plans.
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The federal government has appealed to the states to make operating hours at airports more flexible during the exercise. This is primarily aimed at banning night flights. Disruptions to civil aviation could be significantly mitigated if applications by airlines for take-offs and landings outside the normal operating hours of the airfields were approved by the competent authorities if the conditions were met, according to a letter from Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and Pistorius.
According to the Air Force, most flights can take place over the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Despite prudent preliminary arrangements and technical simulation to reduce disruptions, effects on civil aviation are unavoidable, according to the letter from Wissing and Pistorius.
The air traffic control union (GdF) assumes that the exercise will cause restrictions in civil aviation. "The military exercise "Air Defender" will of course have a massive impact on the course of civil aviation," said GdF boss Matthias Maas.
Simulations by the organization Eurocontrol are said to have shown that total delays of up to 50,000 minutes can be expected daily for the duration of the large-scale exercise, but then other factors such as violent thunderstorms must be added. However, the GdF, which represents a large number of controllers and technicians at DFS air traffic control, emphasized that it considers the maneuver to be necessary in view of the political situation and that it brings a high level of knowledge value for NATO. Dpa