US launches largest Allied airborne drills since the Cold War

Earlier this week, 4,800 soldiers from 11 NATO nations converged on Germany’s Hohenfels Training Area for “Swift Response 15,” the largest allied airborne drills since the end of Cold War, which will continue until September 13.

The NATO allies will be training in various locations in Germany and Bulgaria, “to integrate multiple Allied nations’ high-readiness forces to operate as a cohesive team and demonstrate the Alliance’s capacity to rapidly deploy and operate in support of maintaining a strong and secure Europe,” according to a statement from the US Army.

Forces from the Netherlands,Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom will also participate in the drills.

The US led exercise will focus on simulated joint forcible entry operations and an airfield seizure in Eastern Europe.

Czech tanks allied forcesUS Army PhotoCzech soldiers of Alpha Battery, 132nd Artillery Battalion, 13th Artillery Brigade, prepare to move to their cover positions in a DANA 152 mm self-propelled Howitzer during exercise Allied Spirit II at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 12, 2015.

While the Army’s statement made no direct mention of it, this sharp uptick in allied cooperation coincides with the crisis in Ukraine, wherein 7,000 have already lost their lives in bloody clashes between Ukraine’s national forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east.

Though a ceasefire was signed in Minsk in February, fighting has escalated around the Ukrainian town of Mariupol. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains his nation has no official presence in the conflict, eventhough captured Russian troops on the ground tell a different story.

Allied forces parachutes trainingUS Army PhotoSwift Response 15 will feature the return of 82nd Airborne Division units to Europe for the first time since 1999.

NATO has denied that they are preparing for war with Russia, instead describing the purpose of the drills as “enhanc[ing] security and stability in Europe in response to growing Russian aggression,” according to a statement reported by the Washington Times.

Screen Shot 2015 08 20 at 2.13.08 PMDVIDSSoldiers of 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment conduct a qualification gunnery on the Mobile Gun System variant of the Stryker combat vehicle during Swift Response 15.

In an earlier statement from the Army, Brigadier Giles Hill, Deputy Commanding General-Interoperability for the 82nd Airborne Division, said that “This is a chance for us to do something that is new for our forces… Swift Response will contribute to NATO’s capability to rapidly respond to crisis situations.”

Check out a video of some of the newly arrived US combat vehicles as they are tested out in Germany:


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