May 20, 2019 – Exercise Formidable Shield 2019, a live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise held at the U.K. Ministry of Defence’s Hebrides Range in the vicinity of the Western Isles of Scotland and conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) on behalf of U.S. 6th Fleet, concluded May 19.
“Our enduring relationship with the Missile Defense Agency, Maritime Threat Missile Defense Forum, our Royal Navy hosts, all of the participating navies, and our industry partners was critical to our success in Formidable Shield 2019,” said Vice Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO. “Through our collaborative efforts in missile defense training, preparation, and execution, we remain ready to collectively defend Europe and our interests throughout the region.”
Ships from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in more than a dozen successful live-fire and simulated engagements against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets.
“Improving interoperability between our NATO allies and partners in an IAMD environment is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Defense,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. “The Missile Defense Agency was proud to support the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet and our NATO partner nations in the successful execution of Formidable Shield 2019.”
As commander of Combined Task Group – Integrated Air and Missile Defense (CTG-IAMD), U.S. Navy Capt. Shanti Sethi directed the force using NATO command-and-control reporting structures, aided by a multinational staff, from the Danish flagship, HDMS Absalon (L 16).
“Formidable Shield allowed us to train together as a multinational force to provide capable, credible deterrence against aggression,” Sethi said. “There is no substitute for actually operating together to integrate our defenses against real targets in the air and space.”
Among the national ‘firsts’ completed during the exercise included the first engagement of a supersonic target by an Aster-15 air defense missile, which was fired from the French frigate Bretagne (D 655), and the Royal Canadian Navy’s successful engagement of a supersonic target with an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) conducted simultaneous defensive scenarios by utilizing a Standard Missile (SM)-2 engagement while tracking space and atmospheric targets. During a different event, guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) conducted a SM-3 engagement with a simulated ballistic missile target while concurrently engaging Hebrides Range-launched ‘Firejet’ targets with SM-2 missiles. This demonstrated the capability of the newest Aegis Baseline in a full IAMD scenario.
NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence Operations Centre at the Alliance’s Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, provided command and control during engagements, while patrol aircraft and NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft provided aerial over-watch and ensured that the airspace is clear.
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th Fighter Squadron in Spangdahlem, Germany, were designated as “opposition forces” and fired supersonic AQM-37D aerial targets during several exercise scenarios.
In total, 13 ships, more than 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., participated in Formidable Shield 2019. This biennial exercise series is next scheduled to commence in 2021.
STRIKFORNATO is a rapidly deployable headquarters that provides scalable command and control across the full spectrum of the alliance’s fundamental security tasks. As part of that mission, STRIKFORNATO is responsible for integrating U.S. naval and amphibious forces into NATO operations.