Home Europe Europe’s largest air and missile defense drill gets underway

Europe’s largest air and missile defense drill gets underway

Standard Missile 3 launch
US destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) fires a Standard Missile 3 during exercise Formidable Shield 2017. Photo: US Navy

Ships, aircraft and personnel from ten nations have kicked off Formidable Shield 2021 – Europe’s largest live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise, according to NATO.

Running from May 15 through June 3, the exercise is led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO on behalf of US Sixth Fleet. The first portion of the maneuvers is taking place at the UK defense ministry’s Hebrides Range in the vicinity of the Western Isles of Scotland.

The maneuver will also take place at Andøya Space Defense, a rocket range and spaceport off Norway’s coast.

The biennial exercise exhibits allied interoperability in a live-fire joint IAMD environment, using NATO command and control reporting structures.

“Delivering integrated air and missile defence, and specifically ballistic missile defence, is one of STRIKFORNATO’s primary roles on behalf of the Alliance,” said Rear Adm. James Morley, Deputy Commander, STRIKFORNATO. “Exercise At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield 21 is an important opportunity to further develop fighting capability and domain integration against a challenging set of realistic targets – a demonstration of our resolve to counter the threat.”

Ten nations will participate by sending ships, aircraft, and ground assets to two joint operating areas covering the North Atlantic. An embarked staff, Task Group IAMD, serves onboard the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F-105), which is the designated flagship.

Participating nations include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO Command Structure and NATO Force Structure headquarters will fulfill command and control roles in the exercise, incorporating such diverse shades of the Alliance as HQ Allied Air Command (AIRCOM), Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Uedem, and the newly formed NATO Space Centre.

Commander, Task Force (CTF) 64, Capt. Jonathan Lipps, will lead this year’s exercise as the Commander, Task Group (CTG) Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD).

“Fifteen ships from ten nations will track and engage subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic missile targets on and above the Hebrides and Andøya Space Defense Ranges,” Lipps said. “Demonstrating unprecedented scalability and integration while embarked on the Spanish Aegis Frigate Cristóbal Colón, STRIKFORNATO’s IAMD staff will also direct and authorize maritime Harpoon firing units and a United States Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) firing against a target at sea.”

Confirmed participants include three US Navy destroyers, UK Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and frigates HMS Lancaster and Argyll, French Horizon-class anti-air frigate Forbin, Italian FREMM frigate ITS Marceglia, Dutch air defense frigate De Zeven Provinciën and multi-purpose frigate Van Amstel, and the Spanish frigate Cristóbal Colón.

Live engagements by Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight (DART) munitions, Standard Missile-2, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), Aster 15, and Aster 30 missiles will be executed against various targets, including subsonic Banshee, Mirach, and Firejet targets and ground-launched supersonic drone (GQM-163A) targets.

Additionally, ballistic missile defense tests with Standard Missile-3 launches will also be conducted.

This iteration of the At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield series is fully joint and includes US Army Forces Europe, US Air Forces Europe (USAFE), and US Marine Forces Europe participants, including tacticians from all branches, USAFE aircraft, and Norwegian ground forces. The event is also planned and supported by the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F), a coalition of 12 nations with a focus on improving interoperability and force capabilities in maritime missile defense.