US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers will escort fighter planes from Belgium, Germany, and twelve other nations in yearly nuclear exercises in Europe’s skies on Monday, despite allegations that Russia has expanded the number of strategic bombers along its border with NATO member Norway.
Despite growing concerns that Pres. Vladimir Putin may pursue a genuine nuclear strike on Ukraine, NATO training continues.
According to Reuters, up to 60 aircraft are actively participating in training flights over Belgium, the North Sea, and Britain with American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered combat bombers to practice the deployment of US nuclear bombs positioned in Europe.
Other bombers, refueling planes, and spy planes will accompany the jets.
“Steadfast Noon” is expected to coincide with Moscow’s own yearly nuclear drills, known as “Grom,” which are generally held in late Oct. and test Russia’s nuclear-capable warplanes, submarines, and missiles.
The Western drills, according to NATO, were not spurred by the new concerns with Russia but were just a continuation of training plans.
“The exercise, which will last until Oct. 30, is a regular, periodic training operation that is unrelated to any current global events,” the alliance stated on its website, adding that no live weaponry would be used.
“This exercise contributes to ensuring the organisation’s nuclear deterrent stays safe, secure, and efficient,” said NATO spokesman Oana Lungescu.
According to Norwegian journal Faktisk, recent satellite images shows 11 Tupolev aircraft at the Russian airfield Olenya on the Kola peninsula, approximately 60 miles south of the city of Murmansk, according to Newsweek.
The Tu-160 bombers, which can transport cruise missiles and strategic nuclear weapons, have all been involved in Putin’s invasion, which has left his Air Force unable to gain an advantage.
As of 2022, the Tu-160 was the heaviest and largest fighter aircraft in operation, as well as the fastest bomber. Tupolev Tu-85 strategic bombers and missile launchers are powered by four turboprop engines.
Just three of NATO’s 30 partners have nuclear weapons: the United States, United Kingdom, and France.
France, on the other hand, has no significant role in NATO’s nuclear deterrence and is not a member of the alliance’s nuclear planning committee, which monitors all ally nuclear concerns.
According to the announcement, Belgium will host the drills, which will include the most advanced fighter jets on the market along with US B-52 long-range bombers flying in from Minot Airforce Base in North Dakota.
NATO Director General Jens Stoltenberg stated on Tuesday that the alliance would continue with its training regardless of the difficult world situation.