U.S. airborne troops, armored vehicles arrive for multinational NATO exercise in Georgia

Georgia will host the tenth Agile Spirit military exercise from July 26 to August 6. This year’s iteration is unprecedented in the number of nations participating and in the range of military maneuvers included.

The exercise, run by the U.S. and the host nation, will include troops and equipment from 15 nations, NATO member states – Britain, Canada, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the U.S. – and partners – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine. All but Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and the U.S. are frontline states on NATO’s Eastern Flank.

Equipment has already arrived ahead of the exercise, including High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles belonging to the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade shipped from the Romanian port city of Constanta to Poti. Since the U.S. signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement with Romania in 2005, the year after it joined NATO, Romania has been a major military hub for the Pentagon: for infantry, air force and naval deployments and operations.

The war games will be held at five locations, including the Vaziani Military Base, which will host the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre, and the Senaki Military Base, which was built to NATO specifications and achieved full NATO standards in 2005.

The Georgia Defense Ministry announced the purpose of the exercise is to “increase interoperability between Alliance member and partner countries, to refine and strengthen operational capabilities in the planning and execution of operations in a multinational environment….” The slogan for the maneuvers is “Power is in partnership.”

For the first time two domestically-produced armored vehicles, the Didgori Warrior and Didgori Medevak, will be used in the exercise. Also for the first time joint air-to-air drills will be conducted with aircraft from Georgia, the U.S., Britain, Poland and Romania.

Another first is a special operations forces component with the participation of troops from the same five nations.

In a press release on the impending event the Georgian Defense Ministry also said of the exercise that “its scenario envisages command-staff and field exercises with combat shooting and air-landing operations, as well as the interaction of maneuvering and combat support elements in joint operations.”

The U.S.-led Immediate Response 2008 war games, also hosted by Georgia and also occurring at the Vaziani Military Base, thirteen years ago from July 15-31, prepared the Georgian armed forces for their assault on South Ossetia on August 8 – while U.S. Marines and their equipment remained in Georgia. That attack precipitated a war with Russia, and while it was underway the U.S. airlifted the 2,300 Georgian troops in Iraq back to their homeland to join in the war with Russia.

This year’s Agile Spirit will occur amid a series of war games the U.S. and its NATO allies have been conducting in the Black Sea region, including:

  • The Thracian Star 21 air combat exercise, also held at the Graf Ignatievo Air Base
  • The 32-nation, two-week Sea Breeze war games in the Black Sea
  • The Swift Response airborne exercise in Bulgaria and Romania (as well as Estonia) in May with over 7,000 troops from 11 nations as part of the large-scale DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercises
  • The Trojan Footprint special operations forces exercise in Black Sea nations Bulgaria, Georgia and Romania as well as in Montenegro and North Macedonia
  • The Falcon Defender 21 exercise in Bulgaria