Major Air and Missile Defence Exercise Starts off Scotland
(Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; issued Sept 24, 2017)
A major Allied air and missile defence exercise got underway at the Hebrides Range in the Western Isles off Scotland on Sunday (24 September 2018) with the aim of fostering cooperation between NATO Allies in the face of possible missile threats. Exercise "Formidable Shield", which runs until 18 October, involves ships and aircraft from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. 14 ships, 10 aircraft and around 3,300 personnel will be involved in the exercise.

Formidable Shield will see Allied ships detecting, tracking and defending against a range of anti-ship and ballistic missiles using NATO command and control procedures. Drills will include sharing a common tactical picture, conducting joint mission planning and engagement coordination. The live-fire naval exercise will be the first time in Europe that Allies practice defending against incoming ballistic missiles with no prior warning.

Maritime patrol aircraft and NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft will provide aerial over-watch and ensure that the airspace is clear. Parts of Formidable Shield will overlap with the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, which also take place in Scotland.

NATO decided to develop a capability to defend its European members from ballistic missile threats in 2010. NATO missile defence links Allied sensors and weapons together in a single system. Major components of NATO missile defence include four U.S. Navy destroyers with the ‘Aegis’ missile defence system home-ported in Rota, Spain and a U.S. operated land-based system in Romania known as 'Aegis Ashore'. Other key components include an early warning radar in Turkey. NATO's air command in Ramstein, Germany, commands the system.

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UK at Heart of International Missile Defence Exercise
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Sept 24, 2017)
US-led Exercise Formidable Shield has today begun in waters off the West Coast of Scotland.

A Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer and two Type 23 Frigates will, alongside ships and crews from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States, join one of the most sophisticated and complex air and missile exercises ever undertaken in the UK.

Lasting a month, allies will work together to detect, track and shoot down both anti-ship and ballistic missile targets. 13 ships will fire on 12 live missile targets over four days, improving how allies work together in an air and missile defence environment.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “North Korean tests have shown the danger of rogue states developing longer range missiles. By hosting this cutting-edge exercise in anti-missile defence with allied navies Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to this growing threat.”

Rear Admiral Paul Bennett, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Capability) said: “Formidable Shield is a terrific example of the leading role that the UK plays in development of maritime air and missile defence – protecting our people and working with our allies.”

Ahead of the exercise, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and QinetiQ recently invested £60 million into the Hebrides Range to modernise the equipment and facilities. A further £16.8 million will be invested in two new BAE Systems tracking radars, to be installed on St Kilda, and upgrade two existing radars at MOD Hebrides.

The new radars are part of the £95m Air Range Modernisation programme agreed in December 2016 with the UK MOD.

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