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NEWS | May 15, 2023

Italian Air Force breaks barrier at exercise Formidable Shield 2023

By Exercise Formidable Shield Public Affairs

Italian Air Force F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft conducted the first air-to-air live-fire engagement during the Formidable Shield exercise series while flying on the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Hebrides Range operated by QinetiQ, in Scotland, United Kingdom, May 12, 2023.

The successful evolution also marked the first live-fire event for the MOD Hebrides Range during Formidable Shield 2023 and underscores the complexity and utility of the exercise in honing missile defense capabilities.

“We are thrilled to have successfully completed this air-to-air event during Formidable Shield,” said Italian Air Force Capt. Mattia “Uni” Nucciarelli, Chief Test Pilot. “This exercise challenges our capabilities and makes us a stronger fighting force, as we continue to adapt our tactics and procedures to evolving threats.”

The scenario was dubbed “Umberto Nobile” in honor of Italian aeronautical engineer and explorer Umberto Nobile, who broke barriers as a dirigible designer and pilot and polar explorer in the 1920s. During the Nobile event, the Italian F-2000s successfully executed a Defensive Counter Air (DCA) tasking, engaging a Banshee Jet 80 target acting as a “leaker.” In the scenario, the simulated leaker posed a threat to French, Italian, and U.S. surface units operating in the vicinity.

This accurate reproduction of a combat scenario is a hallmark of the Formidable Shield exercise series, and the success of Umberto Nobile is the result of many months of deliberate planning among Allies.

“The Air Planning Cell for this exercise could not be more excited to see our planning bring about the first air-to-air live-fire event of this series,” said Cmdr. John-Michael "Guts" Gutierrez, Formidable Shield Air Operations Lead Coordinator. “The professionalism of our Italian Air Force Allies and the extraordinary capability of the world-class MOD Hebrides Range shone through in successfully completing this complex air-to-air scenario.”

As in previous iterations of Formidable Shield, the strong support and technical expertise of planners and exercise participants, including those at the MOD Hebrides Range, directly led to the success of the scenario.

“We want to congratulate the Italian Air Force on their recent success in the early stages of Formidable Shield 23. We look forward to further achievements during this series of exercises,” said Jim Graham, Managing Director of Air within QinetiQ’s UK Defence Sector. “This exercise series provides a perfect opportunity to continue advancements in technology, tactics, and interoperability, and we in QinetiQ are proud to be an enabling partner for Formidable Shield 23.”

For all involved, this groundbreaking engagement is not a finish line, but rather another mark in the continued evolution of Formidable Shield as the premier integrated air and missile defense exercise and live-fire rehearsal in the European theater. As NATO Allies continue with the exercise over the next two weeks, there just may be another Italian pilot up in the air, breaking barriers just like Umberto Nobile.