Sat, 05 Dec 2020

German Bundeswehr's Nuclear Combat Exercise

Pressenza
20 Oct 2020, 05:27 GMT+10

According to reports, the Bundeswehr has started this year's "Steadfast Noon" nuclear combat exercise. Within the framework of the so-called Nuclear Sharing, the German Air Force is practicing the various stages German pilots need to go through to drop US nuclear bombs. "Steadfast Noon" takes place every fall. This year's exercise also includes the Nörvenich Air Base near Cologne, which is intended to serve as an alternative site for the 20 nuclear bombs stored at the Büchel Air Base (Eifel). At the same time a second maneuver is taking place in Büchel, aimed at "protecting important infrastructure against airborne threats." The nuclear bombs in Büchel, as well as the fighter jets capable of dropping them, are to be modernized costing billions of euros. The new B61-12 nuclear bombs can also be deployed with low-yield warheads, lowering the threshold to nuclear war. According to reports, NATO documents mention "nuclear first strikes."

Steadfast Noon

Maneuvers of the "Steadfast Noon" series are normally carried out annually in October. The objective is to train what is known as "nuclear sharing." This provides for German pilots in German fighters, when necessary, to deliver and drop US nuclear bombs on the targets. For this, there are around 20 US nuclear bombs stocked at the Büchel Air Base in the hills of the Eifel. In the "Steadfast Noon" context, the Bundeswehr regularly exercises bringing these bombs from their underground storage to the fighters and mounting them for transport. Of course the flight maneuvers are exercised without the bombs. The maneuvers are officially taking place under strict secrecy, however the fact that they are taking place, is sometimes deliberately leaked to the media public once the maneuvers have begun. This was also the case yesterday, when it was reported that "this week," "Steadfast Noon has begun." According to the information, the Nörvenich Air Base southwest of Cologne is also involved in this year's maneuvers.[1] Nörvenich contains a compatible storage system for US bombs, but, as far as is known, is not currently being stocked, but serves, rather, as an alternative location, in case of emergency, for the bombs in Büchel.

Nuclear Sharing

According to the report, Belgian, Dutch and Italian fighters are also participating in this years "Steadfast Noon."[2] According to information from the Bundeswehr, "the Italian air force, on hand with ten planes" has been in Nörvenich since September 28, and will be there until tomorrow, Thursday.[3] The international participation is of interest, in as much as, according to specialist circles, there are 20 US nuclear bombs stocked not only in Büchel, but also stockpiled at air bases in Belgium (Kleine Brogel), in the Netherlands (Volkel) and in Italy (Ghedi, Aviano).[4] An additional 50 US nuclear bombs are said to be stocked at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Since some time, however, a dispute has arisen due to tensions between Washington and Ankara. Last year, "Steadfast Noon" had been carried out from October 14, to 18, at the airbases Büchel and Kleine Brogel. This year, alongside "Steadfast Noon," the maneuver "Resilient Guard 2020" will also be carried out in Büchel, where two Bundeswehr anti-aircraft missile groups will be training "the protection of important infrastructure from airborne threats" - an indication that the US stockpile of bombs could, in a war situation, be a possible target for enemy forces.[5] During "resilient Guard" also the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system will be used.

Billions in Modernization

Far from seeking nuclear disarmament, for quite some time, the governments in Berlin and Washington have been modernizing the nuclear arsenals in Büchel. That goes not only for the German fighter aircraft that are supposed to transport and drop the bombs. The "tornados," kept at the ready in Büchel, are becoming obsolete and must, should nuclear sharing be upheld, be replaced by new fighter planes. For this purpose, the purchase of American F-18 (Boeing) is planned.[6] Experts calculate the costs "even in conservative estimates" at "between €7.7 and 8.8 billion."[7] In addition, Washington wants to replace the old nuclear B61 bombs with new B61-12s, which are not only - allegedly more precise - guided, but can vary their explosive power. That means that they could be used with a relatively lower explosive yield - for example, to destroy a low-level bunker. The argument, they would cause relatively less nuclear fallout, significantly risks lowering the nuclear war threshold.

The US Nuclear Strategy

This is important, because the USA's current nuclear strategy - "Nuclear Posture Review" published February 2, 2018 - requires the capability to wage an alleged limited nuclear war with nuclear weapons of relatively low explosive impact. The objective is to use nuclear weapons on regional battlefields, but not have the war escalate to all out devastation. Officially, this capability is merely meant to serve to enhance deterrence by convincing Russia or China not to opt for "limited" nuclear employment, according to the review. However, critics insist, there is no guarantee that the USA, from its side, will restrict its posture to deterrence in the heat of battle.[8]

"Nuclear First Strike"

It is also being reported that NATO has recently intensified preparations for a possible nuclear war. A German foreign correspondent with good connections reporting from Brussels reported this in June. According to him, at the July 2018 summit, NATO's heads of states and governments took note of a "‘secret' document," that "for the first time" confirmed that "conventional defense and nuclear deterrence" are no longer to be seen separate from one another "as was previously the case in NATO." In the future, they "both must be considered together."[9] The article goes on to say that at their meeting in mid-June 2020, NATO's defense ministers approved another "Top Secret" document, formulated by Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Saceur), US Gen. Tod D. Walters, that stipulates that NATO will defend against every threat to its entire realm of operation - on land, at sea, in the air, in both cyber and outer space - with all "defensive and offensive capabilities" at its disposal, "from missile defense to nuclear first strikes." The alliance also reserves the option of stationing conventional medium range missiles in Europe. They could, if needed, be "nuclear upgraded" at any time.

[1], [2] Deutsche Luftwaffe trainiert offenbar den Atomkrieg. t-online.de 13.10.2020.

[3] Gastflugbetrieb. bundeswehr.de 25.09.2020.

[4] Geheime Atomwaffenübung "Steadfast Noon". bundeswehr-journal.de 21.10.2019.

[5] Resilient Guard 2020. bundeswehr.de.

[6] See also Kampfjets statt Masken.

[7] Ildiko Mannsperger: Milliarden für Atombomber. greenpeace.de 29.07.2020.

[8] John Mecklin: Mini-nukes: Still a horrible and dangerous idea. thebulletin.org 19.09.2018. See also Die Mär vom "begrenzten Nuklearkrieg" in Europa.

[9] Thomas Gutschker: Die Nato kann früher mit Atomschlägen drohen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.06.2020.

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