Naval forces from several NATO members began the Exercise At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield 21 live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise off the west coast of Scotland on May 15.

This year’s exercise includes 10 countries using ships, aircraft and ground assets divided into two joint operating areas in the North Atlantic. An embarked staff, Task Group IAMD, is serving onboard the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F-105), which is serving as the exercise flagship. 

The exercise is being conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKEFORNATO) on behalf of the U.S. 6th Fleet.

Participating countries include the U.S., United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain.

Commander, Task Force (CTF) 64, Capt. Jonathan Lipps, is leading this year’s exercise as the commander of Task Group (CTG) Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD).

“Fifteen ships from ten nations will track and engage subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic missile targets on and above the Hebrides and Andøya Space Defense Ranges. Demonstrating unprecedented scalability and integration while embarked on the Spanish Aegis Frigate Cristóbal Colón, STRIKFORNATO’s IAMD staff will also direct and authorize maritime Harpoon firing units and a United States Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) firing against a target at sea,” Lipps said in a statement.

The Navy said this exercise uses NATO command and control reporting structure to aid allied interoperability in a live-fire joint IAMD environment.

NATO Command Structure and NATO Force Structure headquarters will fulfill command and control roles in the exercise and incorporate parts of the alliance like Headquarters Allied Air Command, Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, and the new NATO Space Centre.

The exercise will include firing Standard-Missile-2 (SM-2), Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), Aster 15, and Aster 30 missiles against targets including the subsonic Banshee, Mirch, and Firejet targets as well as the ground-launched supersonic done GQM-163A targets. The Navy noted SM-3 launches will also occur to test ballistic missile defense capabilities.

STRIKEFORNATO is based in Oeiras, Portugal and serves as a rapidly deployable maritime headquarters with “scalable command and control across the full spectrum of warfare areas,” the Navy said.

“Delivering integrated air and missile defence, and specifically ballistic missile defence, is one of STRIKFORNATO’s primary roles on behalf of the Alliance. Exercise At-Sea Demo/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,” Rear Adm. James Morley, Deputy Commander of STRIKFORNATO, said in a statement

The Navy said this exercise will be fully joint and also includes U.S. Army Forces Europe, U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE), and U.S. Marine Forces Europe participants. This includes tacticians from all branches, USAFE aircraft, and Norwegian ground forces.

Formidable Shield 21 was also planned and supported by Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum, a coalition of 12 countries focused on improving interoperability and force capabilities in maritime missile defense.