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‘Air Defenders' assemble ahead of NATO's largest aviation exercise

The first fighter jet, a Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet of the US Navy, landed on 31 May in Hohn, Germany, for Exercise ‘Air Defender 2023'. In all, 220 aircraft from 25 countries will participate in the event from 12 to 23 June. (Luftwaffe)

The first aircraft to take part in Exercise ‘Air Defender 2023' has arrived in Germany, ahead of what the Luftwaffe has described as “the largest deployment exercise of air forces in NATO's history”.

A US Navy (USN) Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 ‘Golden Warriors' based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia was the first aircraft to arrive for the event held from 12 to 23 June 2023, touching down at Hohn Air Base in northern Germany on 31 May.

Hosted and commanded by the Luftwaffe, ‘Air Defender 2023' will see 220 aircraft (of 23 different types) from 25 countries exercise over Jagel/Hohn, Wunstorf, Lechfeld, and Spangdahlem in Germany; Volkel in the Netherlands; and Čáslav in the Czech Republic. It will comprise upwards of 10,000 personnel. “The participants will practice Composite Air Operations (COMAOs) in training areas over Germany and conduct so-called out-and-back missions into the Baltic states and Romania,” NATO said.

Aircraft types involved in the exercise include the Boeing F-15 Eagle, Boeing F/A-18A-F Hornet/Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, Eurofighter Typhoon, Panavia Tornado, General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper, Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, Learjet aircraft, Airbus A400M, Airbus C295M, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport, Dassault DA-20 Falcon, Saab JAS 39 Gripen C/D, Leonardo C-27J Spartan, and Boeing KC-46A Pegasus.

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