Home Air Major NATO drill Formidable Shield 23 kicks off in Norway, UK

Major NATO drill Formidable Shield 23 kicks off in Norway, UK

French Navy Rafale M black and white photo landing
A French Navy Rafale-M fighter landing at RAF Lossiemouth for Formidable Shield 2023. Photo: US Navy

NATO allies and RAF aircraft have gathered at RAF Lossiemouth in the UK for the large-scale NATO exercise Formidable Shield 23, which will be taking place in the North Atlantic and High North.

Running from May 8 to 26, the biannually held exercise Formidable Shield aims to enhance allied interoperability in a joint live-fire, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) setting, leveraging NATO command and control reporting systems, enabling allied nations to practice and evaluate their capacity to share situational awareness and execute NATO-level mission planning.

With participation from 13 NATO allied and partner nations, the exercise brings together over 20 ships, 35 aircraft, a diverse range of ground units including radars, surface-to-air missile systems, high mobility artillery rocket systems, and a robust contingent of nearly 4,000 NATO personnel.

RAF Typhoons and Poseidon aircraft will be joined by French Navy Rafale M jets and Italian Air Force Typhoons, with support from an Italian Air Force KC 767 A tanker, as they take off from RAF Lossiemouth for the exercise.

Additionally, aircraft from other NATO allies stationed at different bases will participate in the drills conducted off the Scottish coast, including live fire exercises at ranges in Northern Scotland.

US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and US Marine Corps Forces Europe (MARFOREUR), as well as personnel and units from numerous national commands and combined NATO staffs will join the exercise from throughout North America and Europe.

A multinational Commander, Task Group (CTG) IAMD will be embarked aboard the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Blas de Lezo (F 103), which will serve as the flagship for the exercise.

The exercise will also be closely followed by several Russian vessels currently operating in the North Sea. The Norwegian defense ministry said last week that the Russian presence in the region was the highest since before the pandemic. It should be noted that the Russian vessels are sailing in international waters, and that the activity is legitimate and in line with international agreements.

The first part of the exercise takes place outside Norway’s Andøya range. After a week, the exercise moves to the Hebrides off Scotland.

Throughout Formidable Shield, allied forces will participate in a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets, incorporating multiple allied ships, ground forces, and aviation assets working across battlespaces to deliver effects and effectively accomplish exercise objectives. This IAMD event will also test 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft capabilities, including the F-35, fielded by multiple allied nations.

“This three-week exercise demonstrates the unprecedented cohesion of the NATO alliance, our unmatched capacity and capability, and our combined commitment to deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area and the High North,” Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said during a briefing last week at the Pentagon.

“Exercise Formidable Shield is an excellent example of the UK taking a leading role in the development of integrated air and missile defense with our NATO allies.  I am delighted that RAF Lossiemouth, through the efforts of our ground crews and ops staff, are at the center of this exercise helping to protect our people and counter a growing threat,” Wing Commander Tim McAuley Officer Commanding Station Operations, RAF Lossiemouth said.

RAF Lossiemouth is home to the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon squadrons, as well as the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.