NATO has begun its annual exercise to test nuclear deterrence capabilities in Europe with the aid of 14 of the 30 member countries, Sky News has reported. The routine exercise, this year named “Steadfast Noon”, will run until October 30 and see 60 aircraft including fighter jets and surveillance and tanker aircraft.
“This exercise helps ensure that the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a statement.
While it arrives amidst rising tensions in Europe following President Vladimir Putin's threats that his military forces would resort to any means necessary to defend Russia in the war against Ukraine, Steadfast Noon was planned before the invasion and “is not linked to any current world events,” according to NATO.
While real aviation will be used during Steadfast Noon, no live ammunition will be involved in the exercise.
“As in previous years, US B-52 long-range bombers will take part; this year, they will fly from Minot Air Base in North Dakota,” said the alliance. “Training flights will take place over Belgium, which is hosting the exercise, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom.”
Russia’s own nuclear deterrence drills, known as Grom, are expected to take place later in October.