NATO Wraps Up Air Defender 2023, Its Largest Ever Air Exercise

Air Defender 2023
Some images of the U.S. assets taking part in Air Defender 2023. (All images credit: Author)

Twenty-five nations took part in the two-week long “Air Defender 2023” exercise.

Allied air forces began the largest deployment exercise in NATO’s history on Monday, Jun. 12, 2023. Around 10,000 personnel and over 220 aircraft from 25 nations took part in the two-week drills hosted and led by Germany in central Europe. “Air Defender sends a clear message that NATO is ready to defend every inch of Allied territory”, said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, adding, “Air Defender is necessary because we live in a more dangerous world. As we face the biggest security crisis in a generation, we stand united to keep our countries and our people safe. With 250 aircraft, including around 100 from the United States, Air Defender also demonstrates the strong bond between Europe and North America, working together in NATO.”

One of the 107 FS/MI ANG A-10s deployed to Jagel AB.

Exercise Air Defender 2023 has been planned for over five years. The drills helped to ensure NATO air forces are trained and ready to respond together.

F-15 with the 131 FS/MA ANG.

Most of the aircraft were stationed on several German air bases. Training missions primarily took take place over the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and Southern Germany. The drills were aimed at boosting interoperability and preparedness to protect against aircraft, drones and missiles attacks on cities and critical infrastructure. Other training events included supporting ground troops and evacuation missions. Air Defender ran until Jun. 23, 2023.

Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet.
RAF Typhoon FGR4.
German Air Force Tornado ECR.
JAS 39 Gripen of the Hungarian Air Force.
VFA-213 F/A-18F.

Deployed aircraft to Germany for Air Defender 2023:

  • Wunstorf: 11x C-130H/J sev units ANG; 1x C-27J Esc 902 / Romanian Air Force
  • Neuburg: 3x EF-2000 ALA14 / Spanish Air Force (1st week only)
  • Hohn: 6x F/A-18E/F VFA-31/37/87/312 / US Navy; 2x E/A-18G VAQ-142 / US Navy; 8x F-15C 131 FS / MA ANG; 8x F-15C 122 FS / LA ANG; 4x F/A-18C HavLLv31 / Finish Air Force; 4x Typhoon FGR.4 1 Sqn / RAF (1st week only)
  • Jagel: 7x F-16C 120 FS / CO ANG; 7x F-16C 175 FS / SD ANG; 6x A-10C 107 FS / MI ANG; 6x A-10C 104 FS / MD ANG (2nd week only); 5x JAS39C MH 59 / Hungarian Air Force; 3x F-16C 151 Filo / Turkish Air Force
  • Spangdahlem: 6x F-35A 134 FS / VT ANG; 3x F-16C/D 179 FS / MN ANG
  • Ramstein: 4x KC-135R sev units / ANG
  • Geilenkirchen: 2x KC-46A 133 ARS / NH ANG; 1x KC-135R 153 ARS / MS ANG
  • Laage: 2x F-2000 51 Stormo / Italian Air Force
  • Lechfeld: 6x A-10C 190 FS / ID ANG; 3x F-16C 347 Mira / Greek Air Force
181st AS C-130J.
About Edwin Schimmel
Edwin Schimmel is a freelance photographer based near Utrecht city in The Netherlands. His first article and photo publications date back to the mid 90’s in Dutch aviation magazines like Onze Luchtmacht and De Vliegende Hollander. Later on he also got published in international aviation magazines like Air Forces Monthly and Combat Aircraft. Since 2000 he works in the Air Traffic Control at the Royal Netherlands Air Force. He reported from many bases around Europe but also in the US and Japan.