The U.S. Air Force is deploying B-52 Stratofortress bombers to lead NATO training missions over Europe to prepare for possible nuclear warfare with Russia. The exercises will begin on Monday as part of annual training that has become more visible due to increasing concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be realistically considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons inside Ukraine.
The American B-52s will be leading fighter jets from multiple European NATO-member nations, including Germany and Belgium. Recent intelligence reports indicate Russia has placed more strategic bombers along its land border with Norway, a NATO member nation.
As many as 60 European aircraft will travel with the American bombers in exercises over Belgium, the U.K., and the North Sea. The exercises will focus on the deployment of U.S. nuclear bombs that are in place on bases across Europe.
In addition to the B-52s and fighter jets, the exercises will include spy planes and refueling aircraft.
🗺️✈️Approximate area where NATO exercise "Steadfast Noon" which involves up to 60 aircraft of fourth and fifth generation fighter jets,as well as surveillance and tanker aircraft and US B-52 long-range bombers will take place
No live weapons use according to NATO… pic.twitter.com/CgaiutZnd7
— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) October 14, 2022
NATO’s “Steadfast Noon” exercises are expected to occur at the same time Russia is conducting its own annual nuclear capability drills, code-named “Grom.” NATO press officials stated Steadfast Noon was previously scheduled and is not in response to recently increased geopolitical tensions related to the war in Ukraine. The exercises are expected to run through October 30.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the exercises are part of routine and recurring training schedules and said no live weapons will be used in the training missions.
However, the Norwegian press has reported that new satellite images show 11 Russian Tu-160 bombers have been placed at the Russian airbase Olenya, which is in northwest Russia only miles from the Norway border. The Russian bombers are capable of deploying cruise missiles and other strategic nuclear weapons.
Of the 30 NATO member nations, only three have nuclear arsenals: the U.S., the U.K., and France. However, France does not participate in the NATO nuclear planning group and has no defined role in the alliance’s nuclear deterrence mission.
The U.S. Air Force will be sending a number of B-52s from Minot Air Base in North Dakota to Belgium for the Steadfast Noon exercises.