NATO Commences Steadfast Defender 24, the Biggest Military Exercise in Decades

The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) / Photo credit:  SHAPE
The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) / Photo credit: SHAPE

Steadfast Defender 24, NATO's most extensive exercise in decades, commenced on Wednesday, January 24, 2024. The exercises are conducted in various locations and will continue until May 31, 2024

The commencement of the training was marked by the departure of the USS Gunston Hall dock landing ship from Norfolk, Virginia, United States, and following a series of operations, it will commence its transit across the Atlantic, as reported by the North Atlantic Alliance.

As indicated in the message, the departure of USS Gunston Hall marks the first tactical movement of Steadfast Defender 24. His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Charlottetown, will depart Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada for Europe later this month.

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NATO specifies that the planned exercise will highlight the Alliance's ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America and other parts to reinforce the defense of Europe.

Defense Express
Steadfast Defender 24 is an overarching name for a series of around 18 different exercises taking place from mid-January to the end of May / Photo credit: Swedish Armed Forces

"Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order," said General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The exercises will reportedly include over 50 ships; over 80 fighter jets, helicopters, and drones; and at least 1,100 combat vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles.

Earlier the UK Minister of Defense, Grant Shapps, stated that the UK will be sending some 20,000 personnel to take part in one of NATO’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War: "our military joining forces with counterparts from 30 NATO countries plus Sweden, providing vital reassurance against the putin menace."

russia will attempt to misrepresent these exercises as a threat against russia despite the exercises’ defensive nature in response to real russian aggression against Ukraine and overt russian threats to NATO states.

Defense Express
Romanian Special Forces operators prepare to execute a simulated breach during exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 / Photo credit: NATO

The last equivalent large scale NATO exercises were REFORGER in 1988 with 125,000 participants and exercise Trident Juncture 2018, with 50,000 contributing military personnel.

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