STEADFAST Defender 2024 - The Largest NATO Exercise in Decades

Antrittsbesuch von Boris Pistorius auf dem Marinestützpunkt Eckernförde

Eurofighter der Luftwaffe beim Antrittsbesuch des Verteidigungsministers auf dem Marinestützpunkt Eckernförde. Eckernförde, 21.02.2023, © picture alliance / Geisler-Fotopress | Oliver Wunder/Geisler-Fotopress

31.01.2024 - Article

NATO has initiated its most extensive military drill in 35 years with 'Steadfast Defender 2024'. This exercise, involving air, land, and sea operations, prepares for defense against a potential Russian assault, reflecting NATO's primary Cold War-era mission of deterrence.

The drill includes 90,000 soldiers from all 31 NATO member countries, along with Sweden, which is about to join the alliance. The German military contributes 12,000 of these soldiers. The last maneuver of this magnitude was 'Reforger' in 1988, just before the Cold War's conclusion, involving 125,000 soldiers.

The maneuvers began on January 24 when the US landing ship Gunston Hall left Norfolk, Virginia, for Europe. The actual commencement in Europe is mid-February, with the exercise concluding in June in the Baltics.

The goal is to demonstrate operational readiness over several months and across thousands of kilometers along NATO's eastern flank 'under any conditions,' according to Christopher Cavoli, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. NATO has indications that Russia may attempt to disrupt the exercise with electronic attacks, including GPS and radio system jamming – issues already reported by NATO pilots flying over the Baltic Sea.

'Steadfast Defender 2024' has three objectives: Firstly, to test and evaluate concepts, systems, and tactics. Secondly, to send a strong deterrent signal to Russia. And thirdly, as a powerful message of unity and resolve within NATO, especially significant in the year of its 75th anniversary, to be celebrated with a summit in Washington this July: 'Steadfast Defender will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values, and the rules-based international order,' the alliance states.

The exercise spans from Norway to Romania. The first phase focuses on the North Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Baltic Sea, while the second phase extends to Central and Eastern Europe, emphasizing rapid troop deployment and subsequent combat. Germany plays a key role as a hub for troop transports, with exercises also planned in the Baltic states and Romania.

As part of this, the German Armed Forces are planning a four-stage large-scale maneuver, 'Quadriga 2024,' with more than 12,000 soldiers from the army, navy, and air force, primarily practicing rapid deployment to NATO's eastern flank.

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