A gathering of NATO airmen in charge of a nuclear mission begins on Monday, departing from the Kleine-Brogel air base (Limburg) for a routine “deterrence” exercise involving around sixty planes.
Various types of aircraft will participate, including US B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers. The exercise comes amid tensions with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
In an unprecedented concession to transparency, NATO confirmed in a press release on Friday that the exercise, named “Steadfast Noon”, would go ahead. It had already been mentioned by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and by Belgium's Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder.
According to the Atlantic Alliance, NATO air forces will train their nuclear deterrent capabilities with the participation of dozens of planes over northwestern Europe between 17 and 30 October. The exercise is presented by NATO as a “routine and recurring training activity” and is not linked “to any current world event”.
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“Steadfast Noon” involves 14 countries and up to 60 aircraft of various types, including fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets, as well as surveillance aircraft and air-to-air tankers.
“As in previous years, American B-52 long-range bombers will be on board. This year, they will depart from Minot Air Force Base in the state of North Dakota (northern United States). Training flights will take place over Belgium, which hosts the exercise, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom. No live weapons will be used,” NATO stated.
No aircraft will approach within 1,000 km of Russian territory. Several sources confirmed to Belga News Agency on Saturday that the Kleine-Brogel base would be the focal point of the exercise.