American-Led Maritime Live-Fire Exercise in the Works off Andøya, Northern Norway

The Norwegian frigate KNM Fritjof Nansen launches an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) during Formidable Shield 2021. (Photo: Thomas Stangnes / The Norwegian Navy)

In May, naval vessels from Norway and several NATO allies will practice missile defense in North Norwegian waters. The exercise, called Formidable Shield, will be led by the US Sixth Fleet.

From the 8th to the 12th of May, the allied naval exercise Formidable Shield 2023 will be conducted in the waters off Andøya, Northern Norway. This is reported by the Norwegian Armed Forces in a press release.

Formidable Shield is organized every two years and is led by the US Sixth Fleet in cooperation with command and control structures within NATO.

The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the allied ability to cooperate within an integrated air and missile defense concept. In short, it is about protecting the alliance against a number of different missiles.

Norway was the host country for the exercise for the first time in 2021. As then, this year's exercise will be two-part – with one phase in the firing range outside Andøya and one phase in a firing range in the Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland (from the 12th to the 26th of May).

Two destroyers and 12 frigates

Formidable Shield will gather around 4000 soldiers from 13 NATO and partner countries, and more than 20 ships, 35 aircraft, and several ground units will be in action, according to the US Navy.

During the part outside Andøya, 17 naval vessels will be involved. Norway will participate with, i.a., the frigate KNM Roald Amundsen, the corvette KNM Gnist and the logistics vessel KNM Magnus Lagabøte, as well as F-35 fighters and the Norwegian Army's combat air defense.

The United States will participate with the destroyers USS Arleigh Burke and USS Oscar Austin, Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a mobile air control squadron and reconnaissance teams.

The lists of participants also includes Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, which has recently taken part in the NATO exercise Dynamic Mongoose in the High North.

The group includes seven countries with nine vessels: Germany (frigate FGS Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), France (frigates FS Bretagne and FS Chevalier Paul; logistics vessel FS Somme), Netherlands (frigate HNLSMS Van Amstel), Denmark (frigate HDMS Niels Juel), Poland (frigate ORP Gen Tadeusz Kościuszko), Spain (frigate ESPS Alvaro De Bazan) and Portugal (frigate NRP Bartolomeu Dias).

Spain will also participate with the frigate ESPS Blas De Lezo, the exercise's flagship, and the logistics vessel ESPS Patiño; the Netherlands with the frigate HNLMS Tromp – and Denmark with the frigate HDMS Espen Snare.

The previous edition

Formidable Shield 2021 involved around 15 naval vessels, 30 aircraft, and 3300 soldiers from 10 NATO countries: Norway, USA, UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.

 “In conflicts around the world, cruise and ballistic missiles are often the weapons of choice, both for state and non-state actors. So at a time when we see missile arsenals growing and becoming more complex, it is important that Allies continue to adapt and exercise our defenses," said Piers Cazalet, NATO Deputy Spokesperson.

Parts of the exercise involved ships detecting and tracking a missile flying faster than 20 000 km per hour. The ships also trained to defend against various anti-ship missiles and other sub and supersonic missiles.

The participants carried out joint mission planning, shared tactical images, and coordinated the shooting down of incoming missiles. The live-fire training was observed by maritime surveillance aircraft.

The article has been updated with additional information.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.