NATO holds long-planned annual nuclear exercise

  • 13 Oct. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Oct. 2023 16:39

NATO will launch its long-planned annual nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon” on Monday (16 October 2023) with up to 60 aircraft taking part in training flights over southern Europe.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 with the 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st fighter Wing, takes off at an Air Base in Italy, October 13, 2023, as part of Exercise Steadfast Noon.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 with the 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st fighter Wing, takes off from an airbase in Northern Italy on 13 October 2023

The exercise is a routine training activity that has been conducted annually for over a decade. The manoeuvres will involve 13 Allied countries and a mix of aircraft types, including advanced fighter jets and U.S. B-52 bombers that will fly in from the United States. Conventional jets and surveillance and refuelling aircraft also take part. A different NATO Ally hosts Steadfast Noon each year. Training flights will take place over Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea.

“Our exercise will help to ensure the credibility, effectiveness and security of our nuclear deterrent”, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “It sends a clear message that NATO will protect and defend all Allies.”

The exercise involves fighter aircraft capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but does not involve any live bombs. The exercise is not linked to current world events and the bulk of the training is held at least 1,000 kilometres from Russia’s borders. NATO’s Strategic Concept makes clear that “the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.” It stresses that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance”. The exercise will run until 26 October.