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Cooperation in the Air

“Soldiers can always learn a lot, just like the service itself”

Text: Márton Mészáros Navarrai | Photo: Sztaniszláv Horváth |  13:23 May 15, 2024

Troops of five NATO member nations set out from the HDF 47th Airbase in Pápa on Monday, 13 May on an airborne mission within the framework of NATO’s Exercise Swift Response 2024. To demonstrate rapidity and deployability as well as to ensure the protection of the southeastern borders of the Alliance as specified in the North Atlantic Treaty, the exercise was held with the participation of some 1,000 personnel. Its successful implementation is also credited to the host nation support provided by Hungary.


One of NATO’s widest-scale and highest-visibility exercises, Steadfast Defender 2024 is running until the end of May and is focused on the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance with the purpose of showing force to prevent potential aggression. Being conducted as a part of it, Exercise Swift Response is focusing on air operations and is being implemented, among others, with Pápa, Hungary as one of its starting points. Speaking on the media day of the exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Lajos Turzó, Vice-Commander of the airbase told us that in addition to the above, the exercise concentrating on quick deployability is also connected with the US-led Defender 24 and the German-led Quadriga 24 exercises. It is focused on those complex defensive capabilities that enable the Alliance system bringing together 32 member nations to fend off any potential aggression from the eastern or the southeastern directions. We learned that the execution of Swift Response has been preceded by two years of planning and preparations, and it was ordered on account of the Russo-Ukrainian War that broke out one and a half years ago. “The exercise itself spans the whole of Europe, and is being conducted with the participation of altogether 12,000 personnel” – added the lieutenant colonel, pointing out that the lead nation of the operation is Germany.


During the exercise, the soldiers of the German Rapid Forces Division (Division Schnelle Kräfte – DSK) as well as several armed units of NATO member countries arrived in Hungary to participate in an airborne exercise in Romania by setting out from Pápa airbase, and from the Kecskemét airbase of the HDF 101st Aviation Wing. Representatives of five nations did jumps: paratroopers of Dutch, German, French, US and Spanish airborne sub-units. Of them, some 500 soldiers have been provided by Germany alone, and the approximately 300 US troops start the exercise from Kecskemét. “The essence of this military maneuver is to train our partner nations and try to become stronger together. We can learn innumerable interesting and varied techniques during operations like this one. Soldiers can always learn a lot, just like the service itself. It is good to work together in such an atmosphere” – said a captain of the Special Operations Forces of the German Bundeswehr.


Altogether seven transport aircraft participated in the exercise: five Airbus A400M transport planes, as well as two C-130 Hercules four-engine, turboprop medium airlifters. Three of the French-made giant aircraft are German, one Spanish and one French – the Royal Netherlands Air Force provides their companions named after the Greek mythological hero. The paratroopers arrived in ordered infinite lines, and then their aircraft took of to take them above the areas of operations, where the troops performed cargo airdrops, live fire training and air attack to demonstrate their quick deployability in the vicinity of the northwestern Romanian towns of Turda and Cincu.

The NATO exercise has three main directions: it involves Norway and Sweden in the north, Poland and Lithuania in the east and Hungary and Romania in the south, told us at the air control tower Major Tamás Károlyi, Commander, Air Traffic Control Centre, Operations Centre, HDF 47th Airbase. In his opinion, this air operation provides the soldiers of various nations with an excellent opportunity to practice interoperability among nations.

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