Ballistic missile defense exercise begins off Scotland

The US-led live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise Formidable Shield 2017 got underway on Sunday at the UK’s Hebrides Range in the vicinity of the Western Isles of Scotland.

More than 14 ships, 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States are participating in Formidable Shield.

Staff members from Belgium and Denmark are also contributing to the inaugural iteration of Formidable Shield.

The exercise is designed to improve allied interoperability in an IAMD environment, using NATO command-and-control reporting structures. This is the first time a NATO IAMD task group will be exercised at sea.

“Exercise Formidable Shield 2017 brings together partners and allies in a dynamic environment to hone and refine our missile defense capabilities, working together to demonstrate our combined ability to provide for cooperative security and collective defense in support of the NATO Alliance,” said Capt. Shanti Sethi, commander, Task Group IAMD for Formidable Shield, and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet’s Task Force 64.

Among the main actors of the exercise will be a US destroyer, in charge of shooting down a ballistic missile target with an SM-3 missile, and the Royal Dutch Navy air-defense and command frigate HNLMS De Ruyter, which will be in charge of providing the US destroyer with necessary radar data for SM-3 launch.

The exercise is an opportunity for the Dutch Navy to test the SMART-L radar which has been temporarily modified with new technologies that will be used in the SMART-L MM / N systems, thus providing the HNLMS De Ruyter with BMD capabilities.

The new SMART-L Multi-Mission/Naval (MM/N) D-band long-range radar, developed by Thales Nederland, will be forming the backbone of the Dutch contribution to NATO’s ballistic missile defense capability. The Netherlands plans to equip all four frigates in the De Zeven Provinciën-class with the radars which will be capable of detecting exo-atmospheric targets up to 2,000 kilometers away.

US ships participating in the drill include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81).

The US Navy plans Formidable Shield to be a recurring, biennial event.