Home Europe Major US Army-led NATO drill Defender Europe kicks off

Major US Army-led NATO drill Defender Europe kicks off

Containers and vehicles await transportation on commercial ships to Europe in support of DEFENDER-Europe 20 February 18, 2020 at the Port of Beaumont, Texas
Defender Europe 20 tested the deployment of a division-size combat-credible force from the United States to Europe. Photo: US Army

The annual NATO exercise Defender-Europe, a large-scale US Army Europe and Africa-led maneuver, begins this month and will continue through June.

More than 30,000 multinational forces from 27 nations will conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries. The multinational, joint exercise designed to build strategic and operational readiness and interoperability between US, NATO allies and partners.

In March, equipment and personnel begin moving from the United States. In April, participating units will draw Army Prepositioned Stock from sites in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The bulk of training activities will occur in May and the exercise will conclude in June with the redeployment of US-based forces and equipment.

Defender-Europe 21 will encompass several smaller, linked exercises. These will include exercise Swift Response – with airborne operations in Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania involving more than 7,000 troops from 11 countries in May.

Immediate Response will gather more than 5,000 troops from 8 countries across 31 training areas in 12 different countries to conduct live fire training from mid-May through early-June.

Saber Guardian will host live fire and air and missile defense operations, plus a large scale medical evacuation.

Defender-Europe 21 will also be associated with African Lion – a premier US Africa Command annual training event that will occur primarily in Morocco.

A new series of NATO drills called Steadfast Defender will also be part of Defender Europe.

M1 Abrams tanks stand ready prior to being loaded onto the American roll-on roll-off carrier Endurance on February 6, 2020 in Savannah, Ga. Photo: US Army

“While we are closely monitoring the COVID situation, we’ve proven we have the capability to train safely despite the pandemic. No matter what, our nations count on our forces being ready to defend the peace,” said Gen. Christopher Cavoli, US Army Europe and Africa commanding general. “Defender-Europe 21 provides us the best opportunity to hone our abilities alongside our allies and partners in the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea region so that collectively, we are ready to respond to any crisis that may arise.”

This year, Defender-Europe 21 will also include significant involvement of the US Air Force and US Navy. The exercise will utilize key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia and Africa. The exercise will incorporate new or high-end capabilities including air and missile defense assets, as well as assets from the US Army Security Force Assistance Brigades and the recently reactivated V Corps.

“Defender-Europe 21 is a critical exercise that will provide V Corps with another great opportunity to build readiness in our march towards full operational capability, and promote interoperability as we work alongside allies and partners,” said Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, V Corps commanding general.