The NATO nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon” began on October 16th, and in recent days we have been tracking several assets participating in the exercise.
This afternoon over the Tyrrhenian Sea we are tracking:
- a RNLAF General Dynamic F-16 (reg. J-016 – c/s ALIEN05) that took off from Aviano AB
- an USAF Boeing KC-135R (reg. 63-8008);
- two NATO Airbus A330MRTT tankers (reg. T-055 and T-056) conducting an AAR mission over the southern Tyrrhenian Sea
- an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A (reg. MM62228) conducting a similar mission in the same area
- a NATO Boeing E-3A (reg. LX-N90443) orbiting north of Sicily
The exercise is a routine training activity that has been conducted annually for over a decade. The manoeuvres 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 take place over Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Our exercise 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.