Up to 60 aircraft will participate in training flights over Belgium, the North Sea, and Britain as part of NATO’s annual nuclear drills “Steadfast Noon,” which aims to simulate the use of American nuclear weapons stationed in Europe. NATO announced this on Friday.
The nuclear drills, which do not use live bombs, are taking place in an environment of increased hostilities after Russia repeatedly threatened nuclear attacks in Ukraine after suffering significant military defeats there.
The annual “Grom” nuclear drills, which are usually held in late October and are carried out by Moscow to test its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines, and missiles, are expected to coincide with “Steadfast Noon.”
According to NATO, the most recent tensions with Russia were not the reason for the Western drills.
“The exercise, which runs until 30 October, is a routine, recurring training activity and it is not linked to any current world events,” the alliance declared on its webpage, adding that no live weapons would be used.
“This exercise helps ensure that the alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
The drills, which will feature up to 60 aircraft from 14 different countries including the most cutting-edge fighter jets on the market as well as American B-52 long-range bombers flying in from Minot Air Base in North Dakota, are being held in Belgium, according to a statement.
Jens Stoltenberg, the chief of NATO, made it plain on Tuesday that the alliance will continue its training exercises in spite of the tough circumstances internationally.
Cancelling the drills because of the war in Ukraine would send a “very wrong signal”, he told reporters, arguing that NATO’s military strength was the best way to prevent any further escalation of tensions.