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On 25 February 2023,at 5am, France launched in the southern French town of Frontignan, Orion 23, a large-scale war exercise that will last several months, involving sea and land vehicles, aircraft, an aircraft carrier and up to 12,000 troops from France itself and NATO allies.

The city's residents were already in the middle of the night inundated with 7,000 military troops arriving by both air parachute and by and land, along with amphibious military vessels on the beaches and tonnes of heavy equipment.

Six A400M military transport aircraft were used for the air operation that took place. It follows several days of naval operations in the Mediterranean, where 30 ships of the French Navy are operating. The famous aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is one of them, as well as two amphibious helicopter (PHA) aircraft.

The operation will take place in 14 departments and last until March 11. The soldiers will simulate an intervention in a fictitious country called "Arnland": this country destabilised by militias is located in a sensitive area, adjacent to a powerful state at the origin of the unrest.

This exercise campaign involves a number of European partners, including Germany, the UK, Belgium, as well as Italy and Spain. Not to mention the United States, outside the EU. The aim is to strengthen the operational preparation of French troops. These large-scale exercises contribute to a return to the hypotheses of large-scale engagement, confronting an adversary on an equal footing.

"In response to numerous operational readiness objectives, ORION 2023 enables a never-before-seen joint and multinational war training exercise in a scenario that goes up to high intensity. The exercise is realistic and demanding and takes into account different environments and conflict areas (cyber, space, information warfare)," stresses the Ministry of Defence.

Later during the spring, Orion will continue with a second series. In it, a high-intensity air-ground confrontation against an enemy state will be simulated, resulting in a massive deployment of troops. During this new session, 12,000 soldiers should be mobilised in northeastern France.

Are NATO member states expecting something that there is suddenly being practised so intensively ? Is this effectively an exercise or a preparation ?

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