At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield (ASD/FS), the largest live-fire Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) exercise in 2021 led by U.S. Sixth Fleet and conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), concluded June 2, 2021.
“It has been a privilege to lead the team here in Portugal responsible for the planning and conduct of At-Sea Demonstration / Formidable Shield 21, one of the most complex and intensive integrated Air and Missile Defense events ever undertaken in the European theatre,” said STRIKFORNATO’s Deputy Commander, Royal Navy Rear Adm. James Morley. “This exercise has taken place across the maritime, air, and space domains, involving 150 warfare training serials and live events, demonstrating the resolve and capability of the NATO Alliance to provide collective defence.”
Among the many national accomplishments during the exercise, the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) and the Royal Netherlands Navy’s air defense command frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (F802) conducted a cooperative engagement of a live medium-range ballistic target using a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor launched from Paul Ignatius. This event marked a major milestone in the scientific effort to integrate allied space sensors into NATO IAMD, comprising rigorous engineering efforts between several countries and major contributions from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
“The MDA is dedicated to furthering the warfighter’s understanding of the ballistic missile threat, and how to negate it,” said Dave Morton, ASD/FS MDA mission director. “We are also dedicated to ensuring these events are conducted safely and efficiently, and will continue to support the organizations conducting these exercises. No training can replace actually detecting, tracking, and negating a ballistic missile. The more exercises of this type MDA can support, the more confident and proficient the warfighter will become in using our defensive weapon systems.”
U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) conducted a dual-layer IAMD scenario utilizing two SM-3s and two SM-2s against a simulated medium-range ballistic target and a live raid of subsonic targets. The Spanish Navy Alvaro de Bazan class guided-missile frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón (F105), the Royal Norwegian Navy guided-missile frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310), and De Zeven Provinciën launched Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) conducted an air defense engagement using an SM-2 against a subsonic target as part of her Live Fire With A Purpose tactical certification.
Italian Navy Carlo Bergamini-class frigate ITS Antonio Marceglia (F597), Royal Navy Daring-class air-defense destroyer HMS Dragon (D35), and French Horizon-class air defense frigate FS Forbin (D620) launched Aster-30 missiles against supersonic and subsonic targets. Royal Danish Navy guided-missile frigate HDMS Iver Huitfeldt (F361) and De Zeven Provinciën engaged in Harpoon surface-to-surface firing events.
This year, the U.S. Marine Corps 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU) conducted its first High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch in Europe, further integrating the Marines in a joint environment and capitalizing on its strategic lift capabilities. The vehicle-mounted precision rocket system was incorporated in ASD/FS as the Corps looks for ways to incorporate the detachment in the maritime and littoral environment.
NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense Operations Centre at the Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, provided command and control during ballistic missile defense engagements, while P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft assigned to U.S. Sixth Fleet conducted coordinated missile launches with Patrol Squadron FOUR and Patrol Squadron FORTY using two Air to Surface Missile (AGM-84D) Harpoons against a target barge off the coast of Norway.
NATO and The Royal Air Force Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft provided aerial over-watch and ensured that the airspace was clear.
The Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F) successfully completed its operations phase for exercise ASD/FS.
“We are very pleased with the operational conduct of this event,” said Capt. Santiago Vila-Barrón, MTMD Forum Spokesman, National Points of Contact Chair, and commander of the Spanish Navy Flotilla. “The At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield partnership has once again shown the powerful results when Forum experimentation integrates with a Fleet operational exercise. ASD/FS-21 demonstrated increased operational integration through tactically relevant scenarios.”
Air defense exercises conducted during ASD/FS were in coordination with the U.S. Air Force F-15E/C Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing based at Lakenheath, Royal Air Force Base in the United Kingdom. Fighter and AWACS operations were supported by U.S. Air National Guard KC-135 refueling aircraft from Ohio’s 121st, Maine’s 101st, and Iowa’s 185th Air Refueling Wings.
In his role as Commander Task Group – Integrated Air and Missile Defense (CTG IAMD), U.S. Navy Capt. Jonathan Lipps directed the force using NATO command-and-control reporting structures, aided by a multinational staff, from the Spanish flagship Cristóbal Colón.
“It has been an honor to serve the men and women of the task group as their commodore,” Lipps said. “Embarked in multiple surface action groups and dispersed over one thousand nautical miles, Alliance Sailors generated effects and conditions that transcended the domains of land, sea, air and space. At-Sea Demo / Formidable Shield unquestionably demonstrates the Alliance and STRIKFORNATO’s ability to defend Alliance integrity and resolve against credible threats from the ocean depths to low earth orbit.”
The highly technical and complex capabilities demonstrated and lessons learned over the course of the three-week exercise ensure stability and security against an ever-advancing missile threat. In its fourth iteration, the ASD/FS exercise has continued to evolve.
In total, 16 ships, 31 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from ten NATO nations participated in the live training event that began on May 15, 2021. Ships from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. participated in the exercise.
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, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa