A US Army Patriot battery recently came under NATO command, joining German and Dutch Patriot units in Slovakia as part of NATO’s air shielding mission.
In July 2022, Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment completed a temporary transfer to NATO authority with the aim of boosting NATO air defenses along the Eastern flank.
“Air defense is a strategic asset,” said 2nd Lt. Waco Horne, a Fire Control Platoon Leader with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. “Bravo Battery’s transfer to NATO is fully integrating air defense assets with allies to work comprehensively to deter acts of aggression and send a message to friends and potential aggressors that we stand together to defend NATO’s Eastern flank.”
NATO has taken a variety of steps to enhance vigilance and responsiveness including increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and airborne early warning flights; activating the NATO response force, and conducting air patrols with additional aircraft provided by allies.
“We work directly with NATO and our allies to help defend the Eastern flank making sure that we can perform to NATO standards, communicate with them using their communication forms, and are able to engage something if needed,” said 2nd Lt. Emily Park, a Patriot platoon leader with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.
Air defenders experienced the challenges of a NATO readiness evaluation during the transfer of authority.
“It’s an experience where we put everything we already know as an air defense community with new rules, new engagement orders, new information, and work with allies,” said 1st Lt. Young, an air defense officer with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. He shared that while there is a language barrier, there is a common air defense understanding and baseline tactical communication. “We’re able to work with Germans and the Dutch across NATO versus across countries individually.”
During his visit to the region in August 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III saluted the generosity of the Slovak government in providing an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine while thanking Slovakia for its willingness to assist Ukraine in its long-range air defense needs.
“We are stepping up our vigilance, our presence, the way we monitor our airspace by deploying new Patriot batteries to the eastern part of the alliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “We are increasing the capabilities we have to monitor, to track, but also to ensure that we are able to react if needed.”