NATO has begun its annual maneuver to defend the European alliance territory with nuclear weapons. This was confirmed by a spokesman for the German Press Agency. According to NATO information, up to 60 aircraft will be involved in the “Steadfast Noon” exercise until Thursday next week. These include modern fighter jets, but also surveillance and tanker aircraft as well as B-52 long-range bombers.

This year, the venue for the maneuvers is particularly the airspace over Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean. A total of 13 alliance members are participating states, including Germany.

NATO nuclear participation

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week about the exercise that Russia’s war against Ukraine was a reminder of the important role of nuclear weapons in deterrence. “Steadfast Noon” will help ensure the credibility, effectiveness and security of nuclear deterrence.

At the same time, NATO emphasizes that “Steadfast Noon” is not a reaction to the Russian war of aggression and that no live weapons will be used. The exercise is therefore a routine training measure. This year it is to be held at least 1,000 kilometers from the Russian border. NATO does not provide any information about the exercise scenario or details. According to military experts, the exercises, which take place regularly in October, practice how to safely transport US nuclear weapons from underground magazines to the aircraft and mount them under the fighter jets. However, the training flights then take place without the bombs.

NATO’s so-called nuclear sharing stipulates that, in an emergency, US nuclear weapons stationed in Europe can also be dropped from partner states’ aircraft and then, for example, eliminate opposing forces. According to officially unconfirmed information, US nuclear weapons are stored in northern Italy, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands and Büchel in Rhineland-Palatinate. The Bundeswehr recently took part in the “Steadfast Noon” exercises with, among other things, Tornado jets.