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 May 7 2024

U.S.-led Integrated Air and Missile Defence exercise Astral Knight 24; live-fly operations over Poland, Baltic countries

RAMSTEIN, Germany – Focused on exercising Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) and the incremental development of theatre-wide security capabilities, the U.S.-led multinational military exercise Astral Knight 2024 (AK24) kicked off on May 6, 2024 over Poland and Baltic countries.

AK24 is scheduled to host nearly 5,000 Allied personnel from six participating Allied nations and more than 50 aircraft. Four Allied nations will provide aircraft for the exercise: Lithuania, Poland, the U.K. and the U.S. Other participating nations include Denmark and Greece, which will observe elements of the exercise, advancing Allied interoperability throughout the Baltic regions.

Fostering early collaboration and integration in IAMD efforts among NATO nations enhance our ability to deter and defend

"Astral Knight demonstrates the collective defence capabilities of NATO Allies and partners across Europe," said General James Hecker, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and NATO Allied Air Command. “By fostering early collaboration and integration in IAMD efforts among NATO nations, we enhance our ability to deter and respond effectively to shared threats,” General Hecker added.

On top of safeguarding NATO sovereignty, IAMD involves a coordinated approach to protect Allied military forces and critical assets from 

air and missile attacks, ensuring they can operate freely, without disruption and impediment from enemy air and missile strikes. Recent conflicts, such as those in Ukraine and Israel, have highlighted the importance of quickly detecting and responding to aerial threats, such as missiles or drones.

During the U.S.-led IAMD exercise, participating nations will focus on enhancing movement, manoeuvrability, and integration between U.S. and Allied forces, while practicing critical tactics, techniques and procedure of the Agile Combat Employment strategy.

The U.S. invested in advanced sensors, radars, and surveillance technologies, and integrated them with Allies and partners to develop a comprehensive and accurate common situational awareness picture. Such capabilities allow for effective detection, tracking and identification of potentially hostile airborne and missile threats.

Collaboration with NATO Allies, as in AK24, strengthens collective defence capabilities across Europe enabling participants to test command and control relationships. Through early collaboration and integration of Allied air and missile defence efforts, the U.S. and Allies effectively deter and respond to threats.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on input provided by the USAFE Public Affairs Office

U.S. Army PATRIOT Missile Systems participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21, associated with exercises Astral Knight 21 positioned in Croatia. This year’s Astral Knight 2024 runs May 6-18, 2024, exercising Integrated Air and Missile Defense featuring live flying and simulated combat scenarios, concentrated in Poland and the Baltic states. U.S. Army archive photo by Alexandra Shea.
A Lithuanian NASAMS short- to medium-range ground-based air defence system during a static display at Šiauliai. NASMAS can be used to protect air bases against threats from the air. Archive photo by Manfred Reudenbach.
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to RAF Lakenheath prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over England.  State-of-the-art fighter aircraft together with ground based air defence systems provide an effective IAMD posture. U.S. Air Force archive photo by  Olivia Gibson.

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