Thousands of NATO troops are taking part in the alliance's largest ever exercise, with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in focus at a time of fears over Russia's war on Ukraine spilling over into other territories.
Dubbed Ramstein Legacy, the exercise runs June 6-10 and primarily concerns air defenses and fighters and Surface Based Air and Missile Defense (SBAMD) units from allies and partners are acting in concert.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command, said of the exercise that: "Given the current security situation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, large-scale training exercises like this are, now, more important to NATO than ever."
"We will leverage this opportunity to increase multi-domain interoperability and unit readiness. Ramstein Legacy enhances our ability to defend Alliance territory and is a clear expression of NATO's commitment to regional security and stability," Gen. Harrigian continued, according to a NATO press release.
A total of about 50 alliance military aircraft have flown out of bases across Europe, and around 17 ground-to-air SBAMD units are involved; air defense personnel at Ämari base in Estonia are taking part also.
The scenarios have seen NATO jets taking on the role of hostile planes, while on the ground, in Iceland, member states' defense ministers have congregated.
British daily The Times reports that Thordis Gylfadottir, Iceland's foreign minister, has told the "northern group" of 12 nations, which includes the U.K., that they must prepare for a "worst-case scenario" so far as Russia is concerned.
"The threat of a direct military aggression against a NATO country can no longer be excluded," Gylfadottir said.
Britain's defense minister Ben Wallace also expressed his concerns while in Reykjavik, noting that he does not think Russian leader Vladimir Putin views Estonia and the other two Baltic States as full NATO, making the breaching of a border, including with missiles, not off the table so far as the Kremlin is concerned.
Poland's deputy defense minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz said his country also sees hybrid threats from neighboring Belarus, as well as the Russian Federation, while Latvian defense minister Artis Pabriks noted a desire on the part of NATO to send a strong signal to Russia that its territory would be defended starting with the very first square meter and would not be compromised in the event of any incursion.
Exercise Ramstein Legacy is Allied Air Command's principal Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) exercise and takes place across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including 17 allied and partner nations integrating allied SBAMD units under NATO Command and Control, NATO says.
The NATO IAMD system is a collaborative effort and a key defensive component of the alliance's joint air power, which aims to ensure the stability and security of NATO's airspace by coordinating, controlling and exploiting the air domain.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been an increased use of missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and combat aircraft close to the borders of NATO nations. This increases the air and missile threat to NATO territory and populations, primarily due to miscalculation or loss of guidance or control.
Exercises like Ramstein Legacy 22 provide allied units the opportunity to practice NATO Tactics, Techniques and Procedures in a realistic multi-domain scenario.
Editor: Andrew Whyte