Canada, France achieve supersonic firsts during missile defense drill off Scotland

The 9-nation live-fire integrated air and missile defense exercise Formidable Shield 2019 concluded at the UK defense ministry’s Hebrides Range off Scotland on May 19.

Photo: US Navy

The US-led drill helped allies hone interoperability in defending against missiles but it also saw Canadian and French Navy ships achieve national firsts during one of the many training scenarios.

French FREMM frigate FS Bretagne (D 655) deployed an Aster-15 air defense missile to engage a supersonic target. This marked the first time the MBDA-developed missile was launched by a French Navy ship to intercept a projectile travelling at a speed of over Mach 1.

The Canadian first was achieved by Halifax-class frigate HMCS St. John’s, which fired the Raytheon-developed Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile to engage a supersonic target.

The videos below show the launches, first of French Navy frigate FS Bretagne, and then of Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS St. John’s.

Other events included US guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) conducting simultaneous defensive scenarios by utilizing a Standard Missile (SM)-2 engagement while tracking space and atmospheric targets.

During a different event, guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) conducted a SM-3 engagement with a simulated ballistic missile target while concurrently engaging Hebrides Range-launched ‘Firejet’ targets with SM-2 missiles.

This demonstrated the capability of the newest Aegis Baseline in a full IAMD scenario.

In addition to ships from Canada, France, and the US, Danish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, British and Spanish warships participated in more than a dozen successful live-fire and simulated engagements.

As commander of Combined Task Group – Integrated Air and Missile Defense (CTG-IAMD), US Navy Capt. Shanti Sethi directed the force using NATO command-and-control reporting structures, aided by a multinational staff, from the Danish flagship, HDMS Absalon (L 16).

“Formidable Shield allowed us to train together as a multinational force to provide capable, credible deterrence against aggression,” Sethi said. “There is no substitute for actually operating together to integrate our defenses against real targets in the air and space.”

NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence Operations Centre at the Alliance’s Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, provided command and control during engagements, while patrol aircraft and NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft provided aerial over-watch and ensured that the airspace is clear.

US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th Fighter Squadron in Spangdahlem, Germany, were designated as “opposition forces” and fired supersonic AQM-37D aerial targets during several exercise scenarios.

This biennial exercise series is next scheduled to take place in 2021.