Portugal to join NATO ‘Air Defender’ exercise with two F-16
Photo: Portuguese Air Force

Portugal to join NATO ‘Air Defender’ exercise with two F-16

Minister of defence has confirmed Portugal is participating

Portugal will participate in NATO’s ‘Air Defender’ 2023 exercise with two F-16 aircraft that are in Lithuania, the country’s minister of defence announced on Wednesday.

Helena Carreiras was speaking in the parliamentary defence committee, in the Portuguese Parliament, when MP Pedro Pessanha asked why Portugal is not listed among the countries participating in what is the largest air defence exercise of the Atlantic Alliance since it was created, which runs until 23 June in Germany.

Portugal has participated in all NATO exercises and is also participating in this one. I will explain why it does not appear listed as an individual participant, as a state. Because the Portuguese aircraft that are in Lithuania in air policing will participate in the exercise, but as part of the mission that is on the ground, that is why Portugal does not appear as a State, but I can guarantee that our aircraft will participate in this exercise,” she replied.

Moments later, in response to the parliamentary leader of the Liberal Initiative (IL), Rodrigo Saraiva, Helena Carreiras specified that of the four aircraft that are in Lithuania, two F-16s are participating in the exercise.

This Atlantic Alliance exercise involves 10,000 personnel and 220 aircraft from 25 countries.

Called Air Defender 2023 (AD23), the exercise will be coordinated by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and will involve Sweden and Japan, two countries that are not members of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States are also participating.

NATO’s biggest air defence exercise will take place as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to rage on.

During a hearing that lasted about three hours, the defence minister was also questioned by PS MP Diogo Leão on the European Union’s training mission for Ukrainian military personnel, and Helena Carreiras replied that Portugal is already participating in this training in Germany and Poland.

The defence minister said that Portugal currently has 23 active missions abroad, with a total of 1,304 military personnel.

“Of these, eight are in Africa, four in the Mediterranean, five in Europe, one each in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, three in the Gulf of Guinea and the West Coast of Africa and two in Asia and South America,” she said.

Another of the issues that arose during this hearing were the PSD’s doubts about an alleged delay in the creation of the cyber defence school, which caused concern to MP Cristiana Ferreira, who recalled that the General Staff of the Armed Forces (EMGFA) has decided to open an international public tender.

Helena Carreiras replied that the head of EMGFA, General Nunes da Fonseca, “requested legal analysis and concluded that the procedure to be followed, under the provisions of the legal regime for contracts in the areas of defence and security, should be the most transparent and ensure that the service provider is the most qualified”.

“It has therefore issued an internal order to open an international public tender procedure with prior qualification on March 30, 2023. It is our duty in this, as in other procedures, to ensure rigour, transparency and safeguard the national interest. This is exactly what I believe happened,” she said.

In a reply to the PS, the minister of defence also announced the launch of the pilot project “Defence + Youth”, which will take young Portuguese to military units to spend more than just one day, as is the case on National Defence Day.

The aim is for these young people to have “close contact, knowledge and experience of the armed forces” in activities that will take place over three to five days, in a project that is being developed in partnership with local authorities.

Source: Lusa