NATO’s annual nuclear war scenario exercise begins this Monday. While this two-week exercise is billed as a “routine, recurring training activity,” this year is different — and not just the security environment.

“Steadfast Noon”: No response to Russian war of aggression

This Monday, October 17, 2022, NATO will start its annual maneuver to defend the European alliance area with nuclear weapons. According to the alliance, the exercise, called “Steadfast Noon” (German: steadfast noon), will last two weeks and involve up to 60 aircraft – including modern fighter jets, but also surveillance and tanker aircraft and long-range B-52 bombers. The exercise will take place in the airspace over Belgium, Great Britain and the North Sea. The Bundeswehr will also take part in the exercise.

“Steadfast Noon” is not a reaction to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, emphasizes NATO. In addition, no sharp weapons were used. The alliance announced last Friday: “The exercise, which runs until October 30, is a routine, recurring training measure that is not related to current world events”. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu also said the exercise will help ensure the alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains secure and efficient.

NATO left it open what the exercise looks like in detail. 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 flown without bombs.

According to unconfirmed information, US nuclear weapons are stored in northern Italy, Belgium, Turkey, the Netherlands and in Büchel in Rhineland-Palatinate. The so-called nuclear sharing of NATO envisages that, in an emergency, they will also be dropped by aircraft from partner countries and then, for example, eliminate opposing armed forces. Germany has PA-200 Tornado fighter jets ready for this.

Why the exercise was announced

What’s different this year: Previous Steadfast Noon drills have not been proactively communicated. The reason why NATO is announcing its exercise this year from the start is that this time it should be shown more strongly than usual that NATO itself is well prepared for a horror scenario such as a nuclear war.

Most recently, the illegal annexation of four occupied Ukrainian territories fueled concerns about a Russian use of nuclear weapons. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin then announced, among other things, that they would be defended with all available means.

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