Today NATO begins its annual maneuver to defend the European alliance area with nuclear weapons. According to the alliance, up to 60 aircraft will be involved in the "Steadfast Noon" exercise over the next two weeks - including modern fighter jets, but also surveillance and tanker aircraft and long-range B-52 bombers. The scene should be the airspace over Belgium, Great Britain and the North Sea. The Bundeswehr is also involved.
NATO emphasizes that "Steadfast Noon" is not a reaction to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and that no real weapons are being used. "The exercise, which runs until October 30, is a routine, recurring training measure that is not related to current world events," the alliance said last Friday.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: "This exercise will help ensure the Alliance's nuclear deterrent remains secure and efficient."
NATO does not provide any information on the exercise scenario and details. According to military experts, during the maneuvers that take place regularly in October, among other things, they practice how to safely transport US nuclear weapons from underground magazines to the aircraft and mount them under the fighter jets. However, the practice flights are then flown without the bombs.
According to unconfirmed information, US nuclear weapons are said to be stored in northern Italy, Belgium, Turkey, the Netherlands and Büchel in Rhineland-Palatinate. The so-called nuclear sharing of NATO envisages that in an emergency they will also be dropped from aircraft by partner countries and then, for example, turn off opposing armed forces. Germany has PA-200 Tornado fighter jets ready for this.
Unlike previous "Steadfast Noon" exercises, this year NATO is proactively providing information about the start. In alliance circles, this is justified by the fact that this time it should be shown more than usual that NATO is well prepared for a horror scenario such as a nuclear war.
The illegal annexation of four occupied Ukrainian territories recently fueled new concerns about a Russian use of nuclear weapons. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, among others, then announced that they would defend them with all available means.