NATO exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 kicks off this month, bringing together more than 20 NATO Allies and partners from North America and Europe1. “Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 will test NATO’s readiness and military mobility – with forces deploying across land and sea, all the way from North America to the Black Sea region and off the coast of Portugal,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “With over 9,000 troops, the exercise demonstrates that NATO has the capabilities and the resolve to protect all Allies against any threat,” he added.
Steadfast Defender 2021 will be the first large-scale test of NATO’s adapted Command Structure, with the involvement of two new NATO commands – Joint Support and Enabling Command based in Ulm, Germany and Joint Force Command Norfolk, based in the United States.
At a virtual press conference today (6 May 2021) moderated by the NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu, Lieutenant General Brice Houdet, Vice Chief of Staff at NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) previewed the preparations and objectives of the exercise. He was joined by Colonel James Scott from Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, Rear Admiral Andrew Betton, Deputy Commander of NATO Joint Force Command Norfolk, in the United States, Lieutenant General Jürgen Knappe, Commander of NATO’s Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, and Major Jean François Lelubre from SHAPE.
Lieutenant General Brice Houdet emphasised that Steadfast Defender 2021 is a long-planned defensive exercise. The first phase of Steadfast Defender 2021 focuses on the rapid reinforcement of NATO’s European Allies by North American forces. This phase is led by Joint Force Command Norfolk and will include a maritime live exercise with around 5,000 forces and 18 ships, including the UK’s Carrier Strike Group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth. Meanwhile, a table-top part of the exercise will take part in Ulm, Germany. This will train and test the ability of NATO’s new Joint Support and Enabling Command to coordinate the speedy movement of Allied forces and equipment across European borders. Some 300 personnel will be involved in this part of the exercise. In late May, NATO’s annual Noble Jump will take place under the umbrella of Steadfast Defender 2021.This will see the deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), led by Turkey, to Romania. Some 4,000 troops from 12 countries will be involved. Other associated exercises will take place in the region as well.