US and allies deploy missile defense off Scotland in high-end sea battle drill
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 10, 2019
U.S. and allied warships were slated to begin live-fire drills off the coast of Scotland on Friday as part of an exercise designed to test NATO’s ability to coordinate missile defense during a fight at sea.
NATO’s Formidable Shield 2019 exercise is underway with more than 3,000 troops taking part in the drills that are focused on showcasing allied power.
The exercise “demonstrates the United States and our allied maritime partners high end war fighting capability in integrated air and missile defense,” said Vice Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO. “This significant investment of resources, time and personnel ensures we are ready to deploy and operate anywhere, anytime, to defend the alliance and deter aggression.”
The drills, which run until May 19, come at a time of angst in Europe in connection with concerns that Russia’s development of a new missile system – the SSC-8 – poses a new kind of threat.
“It reduces warning times to minutes, lowering the threshold for nuclear conflict and it can reach European capitals,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently said.
The U.S. and NATO say the Russian system violates the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the Trump administration warned it will be forced to abandon later this summer if Moscow doesn’t come back into compliance.
Meanwhile, Formidable Shield is focused on improving allied defenses against a range of missile threats, as well as conducting drone intercepts.
Thirteen ships and more than 10 aircraft are taking part, with contributions from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S. The U.S. destroyers, USS Carney and USS Roosevelt, are taking part along with the cargo vessel USNS Medgar Evers.
The launch of Formidable Shield comes as allies begin a series of major military exercises across Europe.
On Friday, U.S. Army Europe launched Immediate Response, which takes place in Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia and involves about 6,500 troops form 15 countries. The exercise is focused on ground forces coordination efforts to deter aggression in the Balkan region, which is an area of growing concern for U.S. commanders.
Meanwhile, NATO on Thursday kicked off its Crisis Management Exercise, which has been conducted 22 times since 1992. The drill tests decision-making procedures in the event of a major crisis that triggers NATO’s Article 5 provision, in which allies respond to an attack on a member state.