U.S. and allied forces soar for Arctic Defender

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Hailey Staker
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

An estimated 500 personnel from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain and France kicked off exercise Arctic Defender 24 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base July 8, 2024.

Arctic Defender is a German Air Force-led field training exercise where fighter pilots from multiple nations practice air war operations in Alaska, following NATO standards. This joint effort serves as a demonstration of the alliance’s commitment to collective defense and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The Department of the Air Force is optimizing for Great Power Competition and preparing to win in a conflict should deterrence fail,” said Col. Kevin Jamieson, the 3rd Wing commander. “Exercises like Arctic Defender are just one way we can integrate with our allies and partners to share tactics, techniques, and procedures in a realistic, simulated combat environment. As we continue to train and operate in the Pacific, the U.S. and our allies and partners will resolve shared challenges by relying on each other’s strengths to collectively evolve airpower – together, we will deter aggression.”

As lead planner for Arctic Defender, the German Air Force planned a NATO Article 5 scenario to be executed in Alaska airspace. Article 5 states that if a NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, every member of the alliance will consider it an act of violence against all members and take actions necessary to assist.

“The Arctic Defender 2024 exercise is the first of five individual exercises during our Pacific Skies deployment together with our European partners from Spain and France,” said Chief of the German Air Force Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz. “We use the excellent conditions here in Alaska to realistically practice a NATO Article 5 scenario with our jet crews and the entire team. Together with the U.S. and Canadians, this exercise provides us with everything we need to further increase our operational capability."

French Maj. Gen. Franck Mollard, the commander of the European Air Transport Command, echoed Gerhartz’s sentiment.

“The experience of working together with NATO partners… is of utmost importance when it comes to operations in times of crisis.”

Additionally, in a first for European Air Transport Command, European Air-to-Air Refueling Training (EART) will be conducted outside of Europe in conjunction with Arctic Defender. This event trains tanker crews, planners, taskers and engineers, including maintenance personnel, in air-to-air refueling operations. The training offers a unique opportunity to the nations participating in Arctic Defender and other Pacific Skies exercises to train their tanker and fighter crews in planning and executing missions within a realistic and multinational framework.

“I’m looking forward to this premiere edition in Alaska with five tankers from France, the Multinational MRTT Unit and Canada,” Mollard said. “It has been a challenge for my team to organize the training more than 7,000 kilometers away from our headquarters in Eindhoven. They did an excellent job, also thanks to the great support from our host, the U.S. Air Force.”

Participating aircraft include: the U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II; the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet; French Air and Space Force Rafale, Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport and A400M Atlas; German Air Force A400M Transport, Eurofighter, H145M Special Forces Helicopter, and PA-200 Tornado; Spanish Air Force Eurofighters; and Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules.

Arctic Defender training spans from individual skills to complex, large-scale joint engagements in the more than 77,000 square miles of airspace in the Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex, which is the largest combat training range in the world. Training in this airspace provides aircrew, maintenance and support personnel training in sustainment of large-force deployed air operations to enhance our capabilities to defend U.S. interests, deter aggression and counter coercion against U.S. territory and our allies and partners.