The key nuclear exercise Steadfast Noon began on October 16, 2023, and ended on October 26. Some 60 aircraft, including fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets, as well as surveillance aircraft and tankers took to the skies over the enchanting landscapes of Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea. The General Staff of the Polish Army reported that dozens of polish soldiers and three F-16 fighter jets took part. These exercises, which have been recurring for more than a decade, serve as a testament to the unwavering commitment of NATO member states to maintain their nuclear deterrent capabilities, provide collective defense and promote peace and stability in an ever-changing global security landscape.
Rooted in NATO’s rich history of nuclear deterrence policy, Steadfast Noon has been a vital component of the alliance’s strategy for more than a decade. From the beginning, the exercise has played a key role in strengthening the readiness and operational capabilities of NATO’s nuclear forces. It demonstrates the alliance’s commitment to ensuring the security of its member states, especially in the face of emerging security challenges and uncertainties.
Key objectives of the Steadfast Noon:
- Strengthening nuclear deterrence: Steadfast Noon underscores NATO’s commitment to maintaining a credible and effective nuclear deterrent . The exercises are designed to test the readiness of dual-role aircraft capable of carrying and delivering nuclear weapons. By conducting nuclear training flights and exercises, NATO is sending a clear signal to potential adversaries that it is prepared to defend its members with the full spectrum of its capabilities.
- safety and security: safety is of paramount importance during any exercise involving nuclear weapons. Steadfast Noon places a strong emphasis on safety, the stringent security protocols and procedures used during the exercise reflect NATO’s responsible approach to nuclear deterrence .
- Interoperability Testing: Steadfast Noon provides NATO member states with a unique platform to test and improve the interoperability of their nuclear assets. It includes various simulated scenarios, including nuclear attack exercises that require seamless coordination between different aircraft, crews and command structures.
- Demonstrating alliance cohesion: the exercise shows unity and cohesion among NATO member states. It serves as a tangible demonstration of the alliance’s principle of collective defense, emphasizing the commitment of all member states to protect and secure each other.
The choice of Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea as the operational area for the exercise has significant geopolitical significance:
- Strategic proximity: the exercises are strategically close to regions of potential concern, making them highly relevant for testing and demonstrating NATO’s nuclear deterrence capabilities in areas where they may be needed.
- Diverse scenarios: The Mediterranean Sea and surrounding airspace offer a diverse set of operational scenarios reflecting real-world theaters of operations where NATO nuclear forces may be needed. This realism is invaluable in improving the readiness of these forces.
- Involvement of host countries: the inclusion of Italy and Croatia in the exercise underscores their commitment to NATO’s security goals . It also provides host countries with the opportunity to work closely with participating forces and contribute to the success of the exercises.
Steadfast Noon, a recurring exercise for more than a decade, remains an essential part of NATO’s commitment to maintaining its nuclear deterrent capability and ensuring the security of its member states. As global security dynamics continue to evolve, Steadfast Noon serves as a powerful reminder of NATO’s determination to ensure the peace and security of its members. By conducting these exercises over the picturesque landscapes of Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea, the alliance is not only demonstrating readiness, but also reinforcing its commitment to collective defense and the pursuit of global stability in an ever-changing world.
 “Nuclear” NATO show of force. Launches exercise pk. “Steadfast Noon” – online https://www.gospodarkamorska.pl/nuklearny-pokaz-sily-nato-rusza-cwiczenie-pk-steadfast-noon-74141 [accessed: 6.11.2023].
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 Nato holds long-planned annual nuclear exercise – online https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_219443.htm?selectedLocale=en [accessed 6.11.2023].
 Poland and Croatia strengthen security on NATO’s eastern flank – online https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/15bz/articles/aktualnosci-w/polska-i-chorwacja-wzmacniaja-bezpieczenstwo-na-wschodniej-flance-nato/ [accessed 6.11.2023].
Tekst powstał w ramach realizacji zadania publicznego zleconego w ramach Rządowego Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018–2030 r. „Bezpieczna Polska jutra – rozwój działań misyjnych Alioth Foundation”.