MONS, Belgium – In response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Allies have increased readiness and vigilance across Europe to defend and protect all Allies.
In recent weeks, Allies have deployed thousands more troops to the eastern, central and south eastern part of the Alliance and placed more on standby.
Since the end of February, France has been deploying forces to Romania as part of the NATO Response Force's (NRF) efforts. France leads this year's highest-readiness element of the NRF; a multinational force comprised of up to 40,000 land, air, maritime and special operations personnel that NATO can deploy at short notice as needed. The French deployment in Romania is bolstering NATO forces in the region. Within a 5-day period, 21 planes transported approximately 350 soldiers and a large number of materials, including armoured vehicles. This mission also includes a naval air group, supporting a surveillance and air defence system.
French armoured vehicles brought to Romania as part of the NATO Response Force deployment. French military personnel and vehicles from the NATO Response Force, including VABs and AMX-10RCs arrive at Mihail Kogãlniceanu International Airport in Romania. - Photo by NATO HQ
On Friday, Mar. 4, strategic and tactical air transport aircraft from multiple nations were busy moving troops from the NATO Response Force, as well as national contributions, to locations across the Alliance's Eastern Flank.
On Saturday, Mar. 5, Belgian military personnel and equipment left their base in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium and headed to Romania. The motorized infantry unit and part of the land component of the Belgian Armed Forces are now reinforcing NATO's defensive posture in that region of the Alliance.
Belgian military personnel and equipment are on their way to Romania after departing on Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022 to reinforce NATO's defensive posture in the eastern part of the Alliance. - Photo by Belgian Defence Forces
On Tuesday, Mar. 8, during a visit to Ādaži Air Base, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that Spain would send another 175 soldiers to Latvia.
During a visit to Latvia this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional 460 military personnel, along with further military assets to be deployed to Canadian Operation Reassurance in support of NATO in Central and Eastern Europe. These contributions will strengthen NATO's deterrence efforts by increasing Canada's land, maritime and air capabilities in the region.
This week the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Lloyd J. Austin III, ordered 500 more U.S. military personnel to be deployed to locations in Europe to augment U.S. forces already there. The additional personnel will go to NATO's eastern flank, and the United States will send some KC-135 refuelling aircraft out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, with about 150 personnel.
Generally, Allied air contributions are reinforcing NATO's presence along the Eastern Flank e.g. with the assistance of U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. The fighters are flying airborne patrols with Allied aircraft through a series of missions spanning enhanced vigilance, training and NATO enhanced Air Policing (eAP).
An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the "Blue Blasters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Mar. 10, 2022. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S., allied and partner interests in Europe and Africa. - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Hunter Day
NATO's Allied Air Command integrates the French Air and Space Force's Rafale fighters - that are refuelled by A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft - into the standing arrangements to safeguard the skies above the Allies. The French fighter aircraft take off from their home base at Mont-de-Marsan to fly so-called Combat Air Patrol missions along the Alliance's Eastern Flank. While the fighters are on station for three hours two times every day, the A-330 MRTTs conduct refuelling.
The Dutch government in the meantime has announced extending their air policing mission along the Eastern Flank until the end of March. Currently they are utilising F-16s and F-35s to fly enhanced Vigilance Activities from their home bases in the Netherlands with air-to-air refuelling. In April and May they will deploy two F-35s to Bulgaria under enhanced Air Policing. Furthermore, the Dutch and Germans are planning to send Patriot missile systems to Slovakia to protect and safeguard Allied airspace in the region.
Overall, NATO has about 130 jets at high alert and there are more than 120 Allied ships at sea, from the High North to the Mediterranean.