STOCKHOLM, April 17. /TASS/. The Aurora-23 international military exercise - the largest over the past 25 years - began in Sweden on Monday. It will last until May 11, with the United States, Britain, Finland, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Denmark, Austria, Germany and France taking part, the Swedish Defense Ministry said.
The purpose of the exercise is to "improve the combat readiness of the armed forces" in the event of a hypothetical armed attack on Sweden.
"The exercise is one of the main tools of enhancing, testing and demonstrating combat readiness," the Defense Ministry said. "Together with military units from our partner countries, we strengthen security while enhancing Sweden's operational capabilities."
The exercise will take place in the air, on land and at sea. Some 26,000 troops from all military units, mainly in the south of Sweden and also on the island of Gotland will take part. Fighters, helicopters, transport planes and other aircraft will fly sorties from several different bases and civilian airports. The main flight training area in south-central Sweden will be operating round the clock from April 24 to May 11.
As an officer of the Skaraborg Regiment explained in an interview on the Swedish radio, one of the main parts of the exercise will "assistance to the host country [Sweden] as well as support [from] foreign units."