The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance announced had started its annual nuclear exercise code-named “Steadfast Noon”. The week-long exercise is taking place over Southern Europe and involves aircraft and personnel from 14 NATO countries. Steadfast Noon involves training flights with dual-capable fighter jets, as well as conventional jets, backed by surveillance and refuelling aircraft. No live weapons are used. This exercise helps to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
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Notably: Steadfast Noon, as the exercise is known, runs from October 17 to October 30 and will involve 14 countries and up to 60 aircraft of various types, including fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets, as well as surveillance and tanker aircraft.
Of the 14 nations involved, Dutch F-16s and German Tornadoes are operating out of Ghedi AB alongside Italian Tornados, while U.S. and Belgian F-16s and possibly Czech Gripen are operating out of Aviano AB.
Other points to remember:
- As in previous years, US Air Force B-52 long-range bombers will take part. This year, they will fly from Minot Air Base in North Dakota. Training flights will take place over Belgium, which is hosting the exercise, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom.
- While the exercise is a recurring one, and planned long in advance, it does take place at a time of heightened tensions in the wake of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine and Russian president Putin’s threats to protect the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine at all costs.
- The nuclear bases in southern Europe have received several upgrades during the past few years. This includes adding additional security perimeters to strengthen the protection of the nuclear weapons stored at the bases. Two of these bases – Aviano in northeast Italy and Incirlik in southern Turkey, were upgraded over the past five years.
- The second nuclear base in Italy – Ghedi near Brescia – that might be part of Italy’s hosting of this year’s Steadfast Noon exercise, is currently undergoing several important nuclear weapons-related modernizations that are intended to serve the NATO nuclear strike mission for years.
The North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1949, is implemented by the organisation, which was founded during World War II. As a collective security structure, NATO’s autonomous member nations have agreed to defend one another from outside threats. NATO functioned as a check on the imagined Soviet Union threat during the Cold War. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg