BONN, West Germany -- About 115,000 NATO troops Monday launched maneuvers in northern and southern West Germany designed to improve Western Europe's defenses and display the alliance's ability to repel an attack.
The exercises included troops from five NATO nations and are part of yearly fall maneuvers. More than 280,000 troops will take part in the exercises this year at sites ranging from Norway to Turkey.
About 4,500 British and Dutch troops staged a mock invasion eary Monday of beaches in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where they were to act as an aggressor force testing the readiness of the Western alliance.
The two-day maneuver, known as Bold Guard and involving 65,000 troops, was designed to 'show potential enemies how quickly the NATO countries can react to political repression,' a spokesman for the alliance said.
In the southern German regions of Lower Franconia and Baden-Wuerttemberg, about 50,000 West German troops, joined by a brigade of the French army, took part in the Franconian Shield maneuver, which involved 17,000 vehicles and more than 220 planes and helicopters.
It was the first time French troops have taken part in such maneuvers, prompting West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to call them 'a convincing contribution to the defense of the Western alliance.'
France withdrew from NATO's integrated military command in 1964 but remains active in other activities of the pact.
Lothar Ruehl, state secretary in the West German defense ministry, said during a visit to the site of the exercise that French troops have always stood in ready reserve but their participation in the exercise demonstrated their involvement in the NATO strategy of 'forward defense.'
The Bold Guard and Franconian Shield maneuvers were observed by high-ranking military officers from Warsaw Pact and non-NATO countries. Under the Helsinki accords signed in 1975, NATO and Warsaw Pact countries have the right to inspect each other's military exercises involving more than 25,000 men.
Danish Lt. Gen. Nils Aage Rye Andersen, commander of NATO forces at the entrance to the Baltic Sea, said the main purpose of the northern Bold Guard exercise was to demonstrate the capability of forces in the first days of an attack.