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Post: Warplane maneuvers push airspace to the limit


Air Defender will be NATO’s largest ever fighter maneuver with major impacts on air traffic. What is planned, what effects can be expected?

A massive NATO fighter maneuver begins in June: Air Defender. It will be visible from many parts of Germany and its airspace will be partially closed for eleven days. This affects all civil air traffic. ZDFtoday clarifies the most important questions.

What exactly is planned?

Air Defender will be the largest air operations exercise in NATO history. According to the Bundeswehr, as many as 10,000 soldiers from 22 countries will participate in the maneuver, along with more than 200 warplanes and other military aircraft. “Air Defender aims to unite and bring together the air forces of NATO and its allies in a single exercise,” the Bundeswehr website writes.

Air combat operations will be trained under the leadership of the Luftwaffe, including the transfer of troops from the United States to Europe. The maneuver should also be understood as a signal from NATO to Moscow: According to an information letter from the Air Force’s “Air Operations Centre”, the maneuver will demonstrate that “Allied air forces can effectively defend Alliance territory at any time”. “

The “milestone” also requires increased military exercises to ensure security and thus protect our and our allied partners’ freedom.

Bundeswehr information letter

Where will the exercises be held?

The three main locations for maneuver are the air force bases in Hohn (Schleswig-Holstein), Wunstorf (Lower Saxony) and Lechfeld (Bavaria). The other two locations are in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. According to the Bundeswehr, there will be three training airspaces in total:

  • northern airspace Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony: Beginning with the Bundeswehr airfields at Wunstorf, and especially at Jagel and Hohn, the largest training airspace is along the North Sea coast and over the North Sea.
  • Eastern Airspace – Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony: Another training airspace stretches from the Baltic Sea to Saxony. Laage Air Force Base is used here.
  • Southern Airspace – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland: A third training room is located in a corridor between the Bavarian airbase in Lechfeld and Spangdahlem in Rhineland-Palatinate.

When are the exercises?

The maneuvers are planned to be carried out on 12-23 June 2023 between 11:00 and 19:00. However: According to a Bundeswehr spokesperson, the airspaces involved should only be activated for two hours at a time, never for the whole day:

  • Eastern Airspace: 11:00 – 13:00
  • Southern Airspace: 14:00 – 16:00
  • Northern Airspace: 17:00 – 19:00

When asked by ZDFheute, the spokesperson said that there should be no drills at night and on weekends.

What impact does this have on civil aviation?

All non-manoeuvring flights are prohibited at the exercise sites – not even model airplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles are allowed to take off. There are exceptions for police and rescue operations. Ute Otterbein, spokesperson for German air traffic control (DFS) in Langen, explains that the effects on civil air traffic are inevitable.

This will upset flight schedules.

Ute Otterbein, German Air Traffic Control

Because: passenger planes have to fly around training grounds. “Ultimately, airlines have to account for longer flight routes and a significant expected delay,” says Otterbein.

How badly it affects individual German airports is yet to be predicted. But one thing is for sure: If an airplane arrives at its destination too late due to a deviation, it often cannot resume its flight on time. In one simulation, DFS calculated that the effects of the maneuver would be “significant” – the entire system was clocked very closely and responded sensitively to even small interference. Two more simulations will follow in April.

Source: ZDF

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