According to a story published by U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs on May 3, 2021, Formidable Shield 2021 is underway.
FERROL, Spain – The Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F-105) is this year’s designated flag ship for the execution of Exercise At-Sea Demonstration/Formidable Shield 2021, scheduled to take place May 15 to June 3.
At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield is a U.S. Sixth Fleet-led exercise, conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), in which NATO Allies are the participants.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to show our relationship with the exercise organization and with this big challenge of the ballistic missile defense in Europe,” said Cristóbal Colón Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Juan Bautista Payá. “It’s a really demanding task to be the flag ship, but the Spanish Navy is prepared for that and we are doing our best to embark [U.S. personnel] and to allow you to perform the command and control for the exercise in the best way.”
STRIKFORNATO will provide a maritime battle Staff Operational Command directly to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), delivering a rapidly deployable and scalable headquarters capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations and providing command and control of maritime Ballistic Missile Defense, primarily through integration of U.S. Naval forces.
Commander, Task Force (CTF) 64, Capt. Jon Lipps will lead this year’s exercise as the Commander, Task Group Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD). Lipps addressed the crew after a brief tour of the Cristobal Colon, April 30.
“Like the namesake of this warship, you will lead an international armada at sea that will make history conducting the world’s most complex joint and combined integrated air and missile defense exercise across the Maritimes,” Lipps said. “From below sea level to low earth orbit, you will reinforce the importance of mission command across all domains in high-end warfare. It is truly an honor and a privilege to join you today as we prepare to set out to sea.”
The exercise is designed to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire joint IAMD environment, using NATO command and control reporting structures. Ten nations will participate by sending ships, aircraft, ground assets, and embarked staff in Task Group IAMD, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“We are really happy about embarking American staff from Sixth Fleet from the U.S. Navy and from Striking and Support Forces NATO from NATO. For us, of course, it’s a good opportunity to show the Spanish ‘will’ to support NATO and this new and demanding challenge of ballistic missile threat,” Payá said.
There will be 15 ships, more than 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel participating this year.
Exercise At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield receives support from U.S. European Command, Missile Defense Agency, the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F), and Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO-IWS). The exercise is intended to assure Allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate the commitment to collective defense for the NATO alliance.
Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, based in Lisbon, Portugal, is a rapidly deployable, maritime headquarters that provides scalable command and control across the full spectrum of warfare areas.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with joint, allied and interagency partners, to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
And a NATO press release highlighted the exercise as follows:
The exercise, which takes place May 15 to June 3, 2021, provides the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to conduct land and sea based defence against simultaneous cruise and ballistic missile threats with coordinated command and control.
According to Royal Marines Colonel Andrew Lock, Assistant Chief of Staff Operations at STRIKFORNATO: “At-Sea-Demo/Formidable Shield allows Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) headquarters command and control of a multinational force to provide capable, credible deterrence against aggression. These types of exercises demonstrate our technical and tactical capabilities to defend the Alliance.”
This year, as the command and control node for NATO forces, STRIKFORNATO is conducting the exercise between the ten participating nations as they work together to respond to integrated air and missile defence threats. Serving as the critical link to integrate the complex sea, land, air, and space systems from multiple nations into a task force, the staff is focused on strengthening their ability to share common tactical pictures, share situational awareness, and conduct NATO-level mission planning and engagement coordination.
According to U.S Navy Cmdr. Brett Lefever, Deputy Integrated Missile Defence branch at STRIKFORNATO: “Several live-fire and simulated engagements against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets demonstrations will take place during the exercise, including the first defensive live-intercept of a ballistic missile using multinational data systems to track the target. The multinational cooperation for a ballistic missile intercept in outer space is truly remarkable and proves the Alliance’s commitment to interoperability and defence.”
To fully support the complex nature of the exercise, STRIKFORNATO responded by standing up a Joint Operations Centre in Oeiras, Portugal and a forward-deployed staff at-sea onboard the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F-105), which is the designated flagship of the Commander, Task Group Integrated Air and Missile Defence, Capt. Jonathan Lipps. Additional personnel support events taking place at the range control stations in the U.K.
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. Sixth 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.
Featured Photo: Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Chance Vaughan, from Houston, Texas, directs an MH-60S Seahawk assigned to the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 “Sea Knights” off the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) during exercise Formidable Shield 19, May 16, 2019. Formidable Shield is designed to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire integrated air and missile defense environment, using NATO command and control reporting structures. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV/Released)
A Royal Navy story published on May 15, 2021 highlighted their engagement in the exercise.
Three Royal Navy warships today join NATO allies in the world’s largest test of naval air and missile defences.
Played out off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast, the three-week-long Formidable Shield 2021 will test missile systems, sensors, software – and the hundreds of men and women operating them as they demonstrate their ability to deal with the latest aerial threats.
It will see live missile launches as the NATO allies demonstrate their individual and collective ability to track, identify and ultimately destroy incoming threats in the skies, including testing ballistic missile defence.
HMS Dragon leads the Royal Navy’s participation as a dedicated air defence destroyer designed to shield a task group with her Sea Viper missile system.
Using her Sampson radar – the spinning ‘spiked egg’ atop her main mast – the Portsmouth-based warship has the ability to detect and follow a missile’s progress from launch to ‘splash’ (when it is destroyed).
She’s joined by frigates HMS Lancaster and Argyll, whose Sea Ceptor systems also provide shorter range defence against incoming missiles and aircraft.
Both systems will be tested against supersonic high-diving targets plummeting towards the task group at speeds in excess of 12,000mph – 16 times the speed of sound – as well as sea-skimming drones simulating missiles, weaving at high sub-sonic speeds in a bid to outfox the radars tracking them.
The highlight for the Royal Navy will be one of Dragon’s Sea Viper missiles intercepting a Firejet target drone, racing over the Atlantic at more than 400mph but just 20ft above the waves.
Other missiles in the Sea Viper family will be fired by other participants, alongside US-made Sea Sparrow and Standard Missiles 2, against a mix of sub and supersonic drone targets.
Rigorous safety checks and procedures are in place to ensure the ranges are safe and the risk to surrounding areas and other users are negligible.
In addition to testing the weapon systems and sensors, the British ships are also due to test cutting-edge software which is designed to alleviate the burden on the team in the operations room who pore over the display screens constantly looking out for potential threats.
Ten NATO nations – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and USA – have thrown their hats in the ring, committing ships, aircraft, ground assets, and staff.
Led by the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and using Spanish frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón as the flagship, in its 2021 iteration – Formidable Shield is staged every two years – the exercise involves 15 ships, more than ten aircraft and in excess of 3,000 personnel.
The exercise is intended to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate the commitment of NATO to collective defence.
“Delivering integrated air and missile defence, and specifically ballistic missile defence, is one of STRIKFORNATO’s primary roles on behalf of the Alliance,” said Rear Admiral James Morley, the British Deputy Commander of STRIKFORNATO.
“Formidable Shield 21 is an important opportunity to further develop fighting capability and domain integration against a challenging set of realistic targets – a demonstration of our resolve to counter the threat.”