Major air and missile defence exercise starts off Scotland

  • 24 Sep. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 24 Sep. 2017 20:20

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.