U.S. and NATO forces conducted a live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise involving a ballistic missile and three anti-ship cruise missile targets during the Formidable Shield 2017 (FS17) exercise on Sunday.

During a collective self-defense scenario, the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyer successfully detected, tracked, and intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 Block IB (SM-3 IB) missile, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said Sunday.

“Simultaneously, the Spanish frigate SPS Alvaro de Bazan (F101) fired an Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) against an incoming anti-ship cruise missile while the Netherlands frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) fired ESSMs against a pair of incoming anti-ship cruise missiles,”

The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) fires an SM-6 Block IB missiles during Formidable Shield 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) fires an SM-6 Block IB missiles during Formidable Shield 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Defense Department highlighted this was the first time NATO demonstrated its smart defense concept, where ships served as air defense units to protect naval ballistic missile defense units.

Formidable Shield 2017 is the first of a planned biennial iteration of an exercise meant to improve allied interoperability in an IAMD setting while using NATO command and control reporting structures and data-link architecture.

Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKEFORNATO) is conducting the exercise on behalf of the U.S. Sixth Fleet while the MDA is also a “major participant” on the exercise. FS17, occurring in the UK Defence Ministry’s Hebrides Range around the Western Isles of Scotland, began on Sept. 245 and is set to finish Oct. 18.

The Defense Department noted STRIKEFORNATO is the alliance’s “rapidly deployable headquarters that provides scalable command and control across the full spectrum of the alliance’s fundamental security tasks” and is the main link integrating U.S. maritime forces into NATO operations.

Over 14 ships, 10 aircraft, and about 3,300 personnel are participating in FS17. This includes personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the U.S.

Participating U.S. ships includes the Donald Cook, USS Mitscher (DDG-57), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), and Louis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Medger Evers (T-AKE-13).

DoD said in a statement that the exercise “is designed to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate our commitment to collective defense of the NATO alliance.”

Capt. Shanti Sethi, commander of Task Group IAMD for Formidable Shield and Commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s Task Force 64 was proud of how participants performed during these tests.

“The exercise scenarios are designed to test our limits and give us a unique opportunity to truly practice how we would fight together as an alliance. We are coordinating and sharing information in real time the way we would in a real IAMD operation,” Sethi said in a statement.

Cmdr. Peter Jansberg, Danish Navy, CTG IAMD Senior Operations Officer, noted that “Formidable Shield is, as the name already implies, a formidable setup for both testing architectural constructs to TDL (tactical data link) and for the conduct of operational decision making of the complex environment of Integrated Air and Missile Defense.”

“As such, Formidable Shield demonstrates the necessity of constantly maintaining and sustaining a Joint Operational Air picture, so all nations have the ability to act and operate from the same hymn sheet. This making the decision line as short as possible, and the room for error minimal,” he added.

After the IAMD event, MDA and the Navy successfully test fired a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) from the USS McFaul (DDG-74) Aegis-capable destroyer, called Standard Missile Controlled Test Vehicle (SM CTV)-03. This flight was to demonstrate the performance of an SM-6 launches from an Aegis ballistic missile defense-capable DDG as part of the SM-6 flight certification process.

MDA said that SM CTV-03 was not part of Formidable Shield “but was conducted in coordination with that event to leverage the available range assets.”

MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves cheered the missions.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and industry team from across the NATO alliance who planned and executed these missions,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves cheered.

“Both the joint exercise and the Navy test launch truly demonstrate the capabilities the U.S. and our allies are developing to defeat complex, cruise and ballistic missile threats,” he added.

The Defense Department noted Joint Warrior 17-2, a U.K.-led multinational maritime training environment to improve interoperability among allies and prepare forces for combined operations, is occurring concurrently in the same area as FS17.