MONS Belgium - NATO held its long-planned annual nuclear exercise Steadfast Noon from Oct. 16 to 26, 2023 over international airspace in Europe.
Over 13 Allied countries and 60 aircraft participated in order to test the Alliance’s ability to respond to a wide range of threats.
It is absolutely realistic training against the threats that we perceive that we would face
This year, this routine training activity involved a mix of aircraft types, including advanced fighter jets and U.S. B-52 bombers that flew in from the United States. Conventional jets, surveillance and refuelling aircraft also took part in the exercise, designed to ensure the credibility, effectiveness and security of NATO’s nuclear deterrent. “We fly against a fictional adversary and our scenarios do not reflect current world events,” said SHAPE’s Chief of Nuclear Operations Daniel Bunch to describe the exercise.
Conducted annually over a decade, Steadfast Noon is constantly evolving. According to Colonel Bunch, “It is absolutely realistic training against the threats that we perceive that we would face.” For instance, the Alliance looks at emerging technologies that could impact operations and recently included small unmanned aerial systems in the exercise’s scenario. NATO’s Strategic Concept makes clear that the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression but for that, Colonel Bunch underlines the Alliance “is prepared for any contingency”.
The planning of next year’s exercise will begin next week.