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Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz at Wunstorf Air Base: "Fulfillment of 90 percent"

Photo: Julian Stratenschulte / dpa

25 nations, 250 aircraft, around 10,000 soldiers: The large-scale maneuver "Air Defender 2023" has come to an end after twelve days. From the point of view of the Inspector of the Air Force, Ingo Gerhartz, the military exercise was a complete success – and should serve as a warning to the military infrastructure in Germany.

The lieutenant general spoke out at the Schleswig-Jagel air base against closing more military airports. Due to its geostrategic, geographical and geopolitical location, Germany must see itself as a hub and be able to absorb NATO forces. This also applies to land forces.

"Air Defender 2023" ended on Thursday evening – and was the largest deployment exercise of air forces since NATO was founded. A fictitious scenario was used to train in the airspace over Germany how the Western defense alliance reacts to the attack of an eastern alliance and recaptures territories already occupied by the enemy.

»A complete success«

Of 2000 planned flights, 1800 actually took place, Gerhartz said. On one day, the machines were grounded due to thunderstorms to be on the safe side. "A fulfillment of 90 percent is still a peak value for such large-scale exercises," said Gerhartz. In an emergency, the machines would of course also fly during thunderstorms.

Overall, the maneuver was "a complete success," said Gerhartz. It has proven that the allies are able to transfer large quantities of military material within a few days and then be able to hold out for a two-week large-scale exercise. Germany had received a lot of praise from its allies for organizing the maneuver.

An important goal of the exercise was also to combine the machines and systems of different air forces in a data network, said Gerhartz. This had not yet been achieved "on the first day", but then it worked. There was also a "steep learning curve" in other areas of cooperation in the course of the exercise. There were no disruptions to regular air traffic: Thanks to the good planning of German air traffic control, there were "no flight cancellations" in civil air traffic, and delays there were only "in the short minute range".

Sharp criticism of the air force exercise had been exercised above all by the left. Sevim Dağdelen, a member of the Bundestag and chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, saw the maneuver as a "devastating signal" to the international community. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz should rather strive for peace in Ukraine instead of conducting a "war exercise with which the US-led NATO is building up a military threat and rehearsing the air war against Russia".