Ships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in a live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) scenario, defending against three subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles Oct. 7, as part of exercise Formidable Shield 2017 (FS17). Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) is conducting Formidable Shield on behalf of the U.S. 6th Fleet.
Formidable Shield is designed to improve allied interoperability in an IAMD environment, using NATO command-and-control reporting structures and datalink architecture. FS17 is the inaugural iteration of this exercise.
During the collective self-defense scenario, Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) fired Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fired Standard Missiles-2 at the incoming Mirach and Firejet anti-ship cruise missiles as part of a no-notice launch of anti-ship cruise missiles in the IAMD exercise scenario. The Mirach and Firejet missiles were launched from the U.K. Ministry of Defense's Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles of Scotland.
“This exercise provides the opportunity to use portions of NATO BMD architecture and develop potential tactics, techniques and procedures in the NATO operations. STRIKFORNATO is, since 2016, the organization responsible for control of NATO Maritime Ballistic Missile Defense forces; Formidable Shield is the ideal opportunity to exercise those capabilities at sea, for the first time, with a NATO IAMD task group. This exercise is a prime example of NATO strength and demonstrates the commitment of NATO allies to the security of Europe,” said Rear Adm. Francesco Covella, Italian Navy, STRIKFORNATO Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations.
Simultaneously, ships from France, Italy, Spain, and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tracked a short-range ballistic-missile target that was also fired from the Hebrides Range during a simulated engagement, conducting all steps of a routine engagement.
U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director, Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, echoed Covella’s comments.
“The United States and our allies in NATO are developing credible, integrated systems to defend our nations from an evolving ballistic missile threat. Exercises like these provide the perfect opportunities to test our systems in the types of realistic environments our warfighters could expect to encounter. We have learned a great deal from these exercises so far, and I fully expect we will learn and demonstrate even more still, which are the primary purposes of holding these joint tests.”
“Formidable Shield builds upon our past IAMD successes and improves our interoperability in a complex maritime environment,” said Vice Admiral Christopher Grady, Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO; Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. “By training at the highest end of warfare, we are building and maintaining a credible, capable force. We are stronger together, and know that if we are called upon to fight alongside our allies and partners, we will be ready.”
More than 14 ships, 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., are participating in FS17.
U.S. ships participating in Formidable Shield include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers Donald Cook, Mitscher, and USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), and the Louis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Medger Evers (T-AKE 13).
Formidable Shield 2017 began Sept. 24, and is scheduled to conclude Oct. 18, 2017. This exercise is planned to be a recurring, biennial event, and is designed to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate our commitment to collective defense of the NATO alliance. Formidable Shield and exercise Joint Warrior 17-2, a U.K.-led, multinational exercise in a maritime training environment for allies to improve interoperability and prepare forces for combined operations, are occurring concurrently.
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.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.