At the beginning of May 2023, the US Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa announced the deployment of ten A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft to USAFE-AFAFRICA area of operations, in support of the US Army-led multinational exercise DEFENDER 2023.
The Warthogs that were deployed to Europe are assigned to the 442nd Fighter Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command and on daily basis are being based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Montana, USA. During the Defender 2023 exercise, the A-10s will be mainly based in Spain and Greece.
Defender 2023 is a USECOM-directed joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S. and NATO allies and partners. The training consists of three separated, but related, exercises – Swift Response, Immediate Response and Saber Guardian. Each of them focuses on unique and challenging objectives, such as three separate yet simultaneous joint airborne operations (Swift Response), building combat power (Immediate Response) or joint forceable entry operations to seize terrain objectives (Saber Guardian).
For the first time, the Defender exercise was held between March and June of 2021. It was one of the largest US Army-led military trainings in Europe in decades. Since that time, the exercise is organized on annual basis and usually involves around 25,000 personnel from twenty to thirty NATO countries.
This year´s edition of the exercise is being held from 22nd April to 23rd June. The multi-national force is training its ability to quickly aggregate combat power in Eastern Europe. Its first stage, the aforementioned Swift Response training activity, was launched on 7th May across the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean region. Three separate airborne operations are planned to be held in Estonia, Greece and Spain, followed by a live-fire training.
In addition, the Swift Response exercise has linkages to the US Air Force training activity codenamed Astral Knight and the US Naval Forces Europe-led exercise Formidable Shield, both enhancing joint interoperability in a multi-domain operational environment.
Apart from the US forces, personnel from thirteen other NATO countries is expected to participate in the Swift Response exercise – the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The first stage of Defender 2023 is planned to conclude on 20th May.
Cover photo: Senior Airman Krysamere Shockley, a crew chief with the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., closes the ladder door as one of the final steps to launch her jet for an agile combat employment training mission during NATO exercise Defender 23 at Thessaloniki Air Base, Greece, May 10, 2023. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Bob Jennings).
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