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On May 19 the exercise Formidable Shield 2019 ended. Ships from nine NATO countries were taking part in a five-weeks live-fire air and missile defence drills off the coast of Scotland. The exercise follows NATO’s decision in 2010 to step up the defence of European Allies from ballistic missile threats. NATO missile defence links Allied sensors and weapons together in a single system. Major components of NATO missile defence currently include U.S. Navy destroyers fitted with the Aegis missile defence system based in Rota, Spain; and a U.S.-operated land-based system in Romania known as Aegis Ashore. Other major components include an early warning radar in Turkey. NATO‘s air command in Ramstein, Germany is the responsible command.

At Formidable Shield 2019 total of 13 ships, 10 aircraft (with ships and aircraft coming from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and about 3,300 personnel (also from Belgium and Germany) were involved. With these assets the exercise covered a huge area in the North Atlantic – from more than 1,000 km west of the Scottish Hebrides, and from the south of Ireland to the southern end of Iceland.

“Formidable Shield shows how Allies are working together to protect NATO forces and populations from the real threat of ballistic missiles,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “This is one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex air and missile defence exercises.”

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, representing the host nation, said: “North Korean tests have shown the danger of rogue states developing longer range missiles. By hosting this cutting-edge exercise in anti-missile defence with allied navies Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to this growing threat.”

Rear Admiral Paul Bennett, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Capability) added the exercise was an excellent showcase for the UK’s defensive capabilities: “Formidable Shield is a terrific example of the leading role that the UK plays in development of maritime air and missile defence – protecting our people and working with our allies.”

During the exercise the Standard Missile-3 was also fired at a simulated target. Raytheon’s Standard Missile-2 and Evolved SeaSparrow Missile engaged targets simulating anti-ship cruise missiles. “Exercises such as Formidable Shield 2019 provide an opportunity to demonstrate effective collaboration in the battlespace,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, Raytheon Strategic and Naval Systems vice president. The SM-3 interceptor is used by U.S. and Japanese navies and is operational at a land-based site in Romania.

Dorothee Frank