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NEWS | May 23, 2023

USS Porter (DDG 78) participates in Formidable Shield 2023

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Sawyer Connally

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) participated in exercise Formidable Shield 2023 from the North Atlantic Ocean, May 8 to May 23, 2023.
“We’re extremely excited to take part in Formidable Shield 2023,” said Cmdr. Joe Hamilton, Porter’s Commanding Officer, as Porter kicked off its role in the exercise. “This exercise is an incredible opportunity for us to receive invaluable live-fire training time with our NATO Allies, and we are honored to sail alongside.”
Formidable Shield is a biennial integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise that demonstrates allied interoperability in a live-fire joint and combined IAMD environment, using NATO command and control reporting structures. The exercise is long-planned and takes place during odd-numbered years. Formidable Shield 2023 continues through May 26, and has involved numerous NATO Allied and partner nations, more than 20 ships and 35 aircraft, eight ground units consisting of radars, National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), and nearly 4,000 personnel from across the Alliance.
Porter participated in two live-fire missile events from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Hebrides Range during the overall exercise. The events were called “Shepard” and “Armstrong,” wherein Porter successfully fired three Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) interceptor missiles and successfully destroyed their targets.
“The amount of preparation poured into an exercise like this is incredible, and the Porter crew performed superbly from laying the groundwork to executing missiles on target,” said Hamilton. “The opportunity to conduct live-fire missile exercises like this isn’t one we get every day, and we made the most of the opportunity.”
Lt. Mitchell Horrillo, the ship’s Combat Systems Officer and Tactical Action Officer during the events, echoed Hamilton’s remarks about the novelty and utility of live-fire exercises such as the ones Porter conducted during the exercise.
“Live-fire exercises like the ones Porter was able to participate in during Formidable Shield are extremely valuable experiences, but they are also very rare. Most Sailors will go their entire careers without ever firing the missiles that ships carry into combat,” said Horrillo. “Because of this, live-fire missile exercises provide precious opportunities to gain tactical experience and observe radar performance and combat system behavior under real-world conditions, while also validating and justifying the technical maintenance that goes into the operations and upkeep of Porter’s combat systems.”
In the days leading up to Formidable Shield, Porter’s Combat Information Center (CIC) watch team conducted several extensive trainings and practice scenarios to prepare for the tactical portions of the exercise.
“Porter’s firing team conducted over 40 hours of training for the live-fire exercise,” said Horrillo. “We started with the basics of system configuration, firing procedures, and script rehearsal, and evolved into complex, ‘off-nominal’ simulations including system casualties, loss of communications, issues with Range Control, and rogue target drones. This training prepared us to respond appropriately if things did not go according to plan, and gave us healthy confidence come firing day that we were ready to execute the mission.”
Formidable Shield is about more than just live-fire evolutions, however. Throughout the exercise, Porter trained with allies on a variety of tactical and operational evolutions. On May 11, Porter conducted a flag signaling exercise with the French Navy Horizon-class frigate FS Chevalier Paul and a replenishment-at-sea with the British RFA Tidesurge (A138), improving interoperability between units at sea. Porter was also be able to conduct flight operations with allied aircraft and formation transits with NATO allied warships.
“These evolutions added value to our participation in Formidable Shield,” said Ensign Markus Boles. “Being able to conduct these types of evolutions with foreign navies speaks to the hard work and planning we both put into the operations. From our standpoint, everything went seamless and was up to par with how we do it normally. The difference in equipment, aircraft and language barrier didn’t hamper the evolutions at all.”
Prior to Formidable Shield’s start date, Porter made port stops first in Rota, Spain, then in Faslane, Scotland, during which the ship refueled and prepared for its participation in the exercise.
“We’re always grateful to be able to experience new places and cultures,” said Hamilton. “During our time in Scotland, we were able to build relationships with the locals, as well as our friends from the Royal Navy. The time in port is also crucial to conduct vital maintenance to maintain readiness, and to bring on stores needed to sustain the ship and crew out to sea.”
The relationships fostered and cooperative engagements conducted throughout Porter’s experience, both in port and at sea, will continue to serve Porter’s crew well in future endeavors. They also underscore the teamwork and camaraderie of the NATO Alliance, as Allies work together to ensure security and stability in the region.
Formidable Shield is a biennial integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise involving a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets, incorporating multiple Allied ships, ground forces, and aviation forces working across battlespaces to deliver effects. Formidable Shield demonstrates Alliance cohesion, cutting-edge capacity and capability, and NATO Allies’ combined commitment to the deterrence and defense of NATO territory.
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