Almost 10,000 personnel and 250 aircraft from 25 nations are deploying for the largest air force operation in Nato history on 12 June, as allied countries take part in an Article 5 collective defence scenario.

The coordinated combined operation, Air Defender 23, will exercise ‘swift decisive action’ for Allied air forces in a defence of Nato territory, according to a statement from Nato Allied Air Command.

The German-led multinational exercise will take place from 12-23 June, with a focus on improving and widening cooperation among participating nations. The majority of the US air forces heading to Germany are Air National Guard units from 35 different states. The majority of the participating units in the simulated Article 5 collective defence are based at three German Air Force locations, with some flying in from their home bases. Last month Nato announced that it has made use of a deployable command and control (C2) unit to support Air Defender 23.

According to the German Air Chief, Lieutenant General Gerhartz, by planning, coordinating, and carrying out Air Defender 2023, Germany answers to requests for more responsibility in the global security sphere. “With exercise Air Defender 23, we are opening a new chapter in transatlantic history,” he said.

Planning began on Air Defender 23 in 2018, in Germany, based on an Article 5 collective defence scenario involving hybrid occupation forces in Germany and a response from Allied air forces. The exercise will demonstrate Germany’s ability to receive and host large aircraft contingents at its airfields, and reassure nations in the Euro-Atlantic area of Allied cohesion and commitment.

According to Article 5, in the event of an armed attack on a Nato ally, all other members of the alliance will view this act of aggression as an attack on themselves and will take appropriate measures to aid the targeted ally.

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The invocation of Article 5 allows allies to provide any form of assistance they consider necessary to address a given situation. Each ally bears an individual obligation and must determine what is necessary in their specific circumstances.

During the late 1940s, when Article 5 was being drafted, there was agreement among parties regarding the principle of mutual assistance, but there was a significant difference of opinion on how to execute this commitment.

During the negotiations for Nato’s founding treaty in 1949, European participants were insistent on securing an automatic defence commitment from the US in the event of an attack on any of the signatories. However, the US was not willing to make such a promise and successfully pushed for this to be reflected in the phrasing of Article 5.