The international maritime exercise Formidable Shield has come to a close following a month of successes and world-firsts.
Formidable Shield brought together eight NATO countries in the Outer Hebrides to test integrated air and missile defence capabilities through a series of live missile firings and demonstrations.
QinetiQ, operating Ministry of Defence (MOD) Hebrides Range as part of the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA), managed the command and control centre, as well as the logistics and safety for what was the most complex exercise of its type ever conducted in the UK.
The exercise culminated with the launch of a Terrier Oriole ballistic missile target to simulate a medium-range ballistic missile, marking the largest and highest object launched into space from UK soil reaching an altitude of 320kms. To enable this firing to be conducted safely, QinetiQ put in place an air exclusion zone of 1.1m sq kms, approximately twice the size of Spain.
In another first, QinetiQ launched two Firejet and two Mirach aerial targets simultaneously, flying them in formation to be engaged by participating navies.
Rear Admiral Paul Bennett, Assistant Chief in Naval Staff Capability, Royal Navy, said:
“Formidable Shield 2017 marks a step change from an exercise we did two years ago, At Sea Demonstration 2015. We’ve got more credible targets, a more complex maritime task group and we are stepping up to ensure that we’re able to test our NATO task groups to the Nth degree.”
QinetiQ and MOD recently announced an investment of £60m into the Hebrides Range to modernise the equipment and facilities, including new radars, to ensure that the UK remains the preeminent location to undertake missile test and evaluation, as well as training and rehearsal.
The Rt Hon Earl Howe, UK Minister of State for Defence, said when he visited the exercise:
“The UK MOD’s Hebrides range, managed by QinetiQ, is one of the most advanced of its kind for test and evaluation and essential for these complex and important exercises. MOD and QinetiQ investment of £60 million will ensure that it remains one of the most up-to-date facilities in the world, not just for test and evaluation, but for training and rehearsal as well.”
Captain Jonathan Lipps, Deputy Commander for Task Force 64, US Navy 6th Fleet, said:
“The range here provides a great opportunity to integrate the forces of the alliance, the members of the task force, the water space and the air space that we need to execute this fight. It’s of vital importance. There are few places in the world that we can conduct this type of operation. Here we can do it safely and capture the lessons learned that we need to build for the future.”
Steve Fitz-Gerald, Managing Director Maritime, Land and Weapons, QinetiQ said:
“Being able to undertake such complex and important exercises is vital for the UK’s future defence capability. In the MOD Hebrides Range, we have a truly world-class capability on our door step that is attractive to international customers and Formidable Shield demonstrates what the facility is capable of. QinetiQ will continue to make improvements and upgrade facilities as we look to meet our strategy of modernising UK test and evaluation.”