NEWS | Oct. 18, 2017

Formidable Shield 2017 Concludes with Ships Engaging Supersonic Targets

By Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Drew Verbis, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

Ships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in a successful live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) scenario, defending against a supersonic target Oct. 17, concluding exercise Formidable Shield 2017 (FS17), which began Sept. 24. Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) conducted Formidable Shield on behalf of the U.S. 6th Fleet.

During the collective self-defense scenario, the Netherlands frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) fired a Standard Missile (SM) 2 and an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) against the supersonic target. 

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, were designated as “opposition forces” and fired the supersonic target during this exercise scenario.

“Events like this require a joint effort, from all different type of assets, and represent a great opportunity to demonstrate the cooperation among Allies on development of integrated air missile defense capabilities,” said Italian Navy Rear Adm. Francesco Covella, STRIKFORNATO deputy chief of staff of operations. “Formidable Shield is the right opportunity for forces to practice together and to allow them to adapt tactics and procedures to strengthen and improve NATO collective ability to defend against increasingly complex ballistic missile and air threats.”

The two missiles fired against the supersonic target Oct. 17 occurred during the third live-fire event of FS17.  During FS17, four nations conducted a total of 11 successful missile launches. During the first live-fire event Oct. 7, the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) fired three Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fired two SM-2s at four incoming anti-ship cruise missiles. During the second live-fire event on Oct. 15, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) fired one SM-3 Block IB guided missile against a medium-range ballistic missile target.  Also on Oct. 15, the Spanish frigate SPS Alvaro de Bazan (F101) fired one ESSM against an incoming anti-ship cruise missile while Tromp fired two ESSMs against a pair of incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.  

Notable ‘firsts’ that occurred during FS17 include: the first time NATO’s smart defense concept was demonstrated with ships serving as air defense units protecting naval ballistic missile defense units; the first no-notice launch of anti-ship cruise missiles as part of an IAMD scenario; and the first time a NATO IAMD task group was exercised at sea.

“The IAMD Task Group demonstrated our ability, as an alliance, to operate at the highest end of warfare,” said Vice Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, STRIKEFORNATO; commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.  “Our NATO allies and partners are committed to working together in any environment, even in hurricane conditions. I applaud the 3,300 professionals from 10 nations who showed their flexibility, adaptability, and teamwork during the highly successful, challenging, no-notice scenarios.” 

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., participated in FS17 on the U.K. Ministry of Defense's Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles of Scotland.

“We are stronger together,” said Grady. “By using the Smart Defense concept and pooling our resources, we can maintain our competitive edge in the maritime environment. The commitment to BMD, IAMD, and the collective defense of NATO European territory, populations, and forces was obvious during Formidable Shield 17, and I look forward to what we can accomplish in 2019.”

FS is designed to improve allied interoperability in an IAMD environment, using NATO command-and-control reporting structures and datalink architecture. FS17 was the inaugural iteration of what is planned to be a recurring, biennial event designed to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate our commitment to collective defense of the NATO alliance.

U.S. ships that participated in Formidable Shield include Donald Cook, Mitscher, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), and the Louis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Medger Evers (T-AKE 13).

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.