15 ships, more than 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel are participating in Exercise Formidable Shield this year.
Three Royal Navy warships will join their NATO allies in what is being described as the world’s largest test of naval air and missile defences.
Formidable Shield is a U.S. Sixth Fleet-led exercise, conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), in which NATO allies are the participants.
The Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F-105) is this year’s designated flagship for the execution of the Formidable Shield 2021 exercise, scheduled to take place May 15th to June 3rd.
According to a Royal Navy news release, played out off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast, the three-week-long Formidable Shield 2021 will test missile systems, sensors, software – and the hundreds of men and women operating them as they demonstrate their ability to deal with the latest aerial threats.
“It will see live missile launches as the NATO allies demonstrate their individual and collective ability to track, identify and ultimately destroy incoming threats in the skies, including testing ballistic missile defence. HMS Dragon leads the Royal Navy’s participation as a dedicated air defence destroyer designed to shield a task group with her Sea Viper missile system.
Using her Sampson radar – the spinning ‘spiked egg’ atop her main mast – the Portsmouth-based warship has the ability to detect and follow a missile’s progress from launch to ‘splash’ (when it is destroyed). She’s joined by frigates HMS Lancaster and Argyll, whose Sea Ceptor systems also provide shorter range defence against incoming missiles and aircraft.
Both systems will be tested against supersonic high-diving targets plummeting towards the task group at speeds in excess of 12,000mph – 16 times the speed of sound – as well as sea-skimming drones simulating missiles, weaving at high sub-sonic speeds in a bid to outfox the radars tracking them. The highlight for the Royal Navy will be one of Dragon’s Sea Viper missiles intercepting a Firejet target drone, racing over the Atlantic at more than 400mph but just 20ft above the waves.”
The exercise is intended to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate the commitment of NATO to collective defence.
“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 Admiral James Morley, the British Deputy Commander of STRIKFORNATO.
“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.”