US, NATO missile defense exercise kicks off in Atlantic amid Russian show of force
Stars and Stripes May 8, 2023
NAPLES, Italy — Russia’s military was making its presence felt in international waters near northern Europe as the U.S. and its NATO allies prepared for a missile defense exercise that began Monday in the North Atlantic.
Formidable Shield includes live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic and ballistic missiles, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet said in a statement Saturday. It runs through May 26, according to the statement.
New NATO member Finland is a notable participant in the exercise, which has drawn 13 allied and partner nations. The accession of Finland, which has an 800-mile-long border with Russia, was a direct result of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
On Friday, the Russian intelligence collection vessel Yuriy Ivanov was spotted leaving the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar.
That departure was the latest in a series involving ships assigned to Moscow’s Mediterranean task force in recent weeks, including the frigate Admiral Grigorovich.
It also dovetails with the arrival of at least seven Russian ships operating last week in the North Sea near Norway, open-source intelligence analysts on Twitter recently noted.
Those ships included the Grigorovich, four corvettes, an oiler and a tugboat, according to a tweet Thursday by analyst H. I. Sutton on his account @CovertShores.
Analysts reported on Twitter on Monday afternoon that some Russian ships, including the Grigorovich, had left the North Sea.
The arrival of the Russian ships, along with allied vessels, was to be anticipated over the next few weeks, the Norwegian armed forces said Thursday on its official Twitter account, @Forsvaret_no.
NATO has grown increasingly concerned about Russian naval activity in the North Atlantic, especially submarines.
Last month, Iceland for the first time granted U.S. nuclear submarines permission for periodic supply stops and personnel swaps in an effort to strengthen surveillance and response capabilities.
The reasons behind the recent buildup of Russian ships in the North Sea were unclear, but the “most likely explanation at this state is an unannounced exercise,” Sutton said in a post Wednesday on his Covert Shores blog.
The biennial Formidable Shield will include more than 20 ships, 35 aircraft and nearly 4,000 personnel, according to the Navy’s statement.
Among U.S. forces participating are Arleigh-Burke class destroyers USS Porter and USS Oscar Austin, a Marine Corps high-mobility artillery rocket system platoon and Air Force F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, 6th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Barker said Sunday.