NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024: Unprecedented Military Exercise Signals Alliance Unity and Preparedness

January 26, 2024

In a significant display of military prowess, NATO announced its intention to conduct STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 in the coming months, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War. With approximately 90,000 troops from all 31 NATO Allies, as well as partner Sweden, participating, the exercise is poised to test and refine NATO’s defence plans for reinforcing European defences against a near-peer adversary.

The announcement by U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Operations and head of U.S. European Command, has garnered widespread attention. STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 is designed to provide valuable insights for enhancing NATO’s defence plans, improving interoperability, efficiency, and resilience. This effort aims to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to collective defence and send a robust message about its readiness to protect all Allies in the face of emerging threats.

The exercise is strategically located in several key European countries, including Finland, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Events will take place from the end of January to May 31, 2024, divided into two parts.

During the initial phase (End of January to mid-March), the focus will be on maritime reinforcement across the Atlantic and in the Arctic. The second phase (mid-February to the end of May) will shift to using deployed reinforcements across all domains, from the Arctic to the Eastern Flank.

STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 is a multi-domain exercise, incorporating land, air, sea, cyber, and space operations, which has been a major focus of doctrinal development at NATO Allied Command Transformation. It involves deploying forces from North America and other parts of the Alliance to Europe. Over several months, complex multi-domain operations will be conducted across thousands of kilometres, thereby enhancing civil-military cooperation and national and collective resilience.

NATO exercises, especially on this scale, are planned years in advance and use a fictitious scenario aimed at enhancing the Alliance’s collective defence. Exercises serve the dual purpose of refining defence plans as well as acting as a deterrent against potential aggression from near-peer adversaries.

STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 marks a historic moment for NATO, showcasing transatlantic unity, strength, and determination in the face of evolving security challenges. As tensions persist in Eastern Europe, this exercise sends a clear message that NATO is prepared to defend its members, its values, and uphold collective security in the Euro-Atlantic area.