GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany – NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft participate in German-led multinational exercise Air Defender 23. The first AWACS flight for the exercise took off from NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen on Monday, June 13.
From June 12 to 23, more than 200 aircraft from 25 nations practice
air operations in the European airspace. NATO AWACS enables the exercise by providing airborne command and control with its long-range radar and passive sensors for the participating fighter aircraft.
During Air Defender 23, the AWACS essentially functions as a flying command centre as the AWACS crew is in constant radio contact to the participating (fighter) pilots, giving them instructions and directing them. This not only ensures an effective but also safe exercise as the AWACS is able to de-conflict flight patterns in a crowded airspace.
A NATO E-3A AWACS flies with two US F-16 during Exercise Air Defender 23. Photo by Deutsche Luftwaffe.
Air Defender 23 is the largest air force deployment exercise in NATO's history. Under the lead of the German air force, about 10,000 troops from Allied and Partner nations practice a fictitious collective defence scenario, in which Allies and Partners deploy their forces to Germany to defend NATO territory with swift and decisive action.
Planning for the exercise started already in 2018. The exercise’s focus is on optimizing and expanding cooperation among participating nations, thereby underlining interoperability and demonstrating the strong transatlantic link, and the ability to defend every inch of NATO territory.