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Formidable Shield, testing integrated defence capabilities


Ian Brown, Group Head Investor Relations

The Formidable Shield series of military exercises, first delivered in 2017 and now taking place every two years, demonstrate our integrated value proposition. They are also an example of our strategy in action, enabled by investment in the UK and now attracting international customers to our world-leading UK facilities.

Formidable Shield ‘17 brought together eight NATO countries led by the US in the Outer Hebrides to test integrated air and missile defence capabilities through a series of live missile firings and demonstrations. The exercise culminated with the launch and intercept 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 320km. To enable this firing to be conducted safely, QinetiQ put in place an air exclusion zone of 1.1m sq km, approximately twice the size of Spain. The exercise was enabled by our investment to modernise the range, enhancing our data collection and interpretation abilities and air traffic control systems. The investment means the range is capable of facilitating large-scale exercises and rehearsals, and has secured this major event on a bi-annual basis until the end of the next decade.

Strategy In Action

With the advancement in defence capabilities and the sophistication of the threats our customers face, our modernisation ensures we continue to provide relevant test, training and rehearsal. Our investment into the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) will ensure we can support future UK programmes such as the Dreadnought submarine.


Our investment into air ranges is making them more attractive to international customers. We are capable of testing the most advanced defence systems, and our expertise and facilities are of increasing relevance to a wider range of nations. Recent large scale exercises, such as Formidable Shield, act as showcases to other international customers of our capabilities.


Under the modernisation of the LTPA we are investing in new technologies and ways of working to deliver test and evaluation, and training and rehearsal in more cost effective and innovative ways. This involves combining live, virtual and constructive environments as well as facilitating improved data generation and analysis.

Our business model in action
Capability integration
  • Large scale rehearsals, such as Formidable Shield, require the integration of multiple systems
  • This tests the interoperability of multiple nations’ systems to assure they work
  • Our teams’ understanding of these systems is critical in providing this assurance
Threat representation
  • New threats, such as hypersonic weapons and the proliferation of ballistic missiles, require new ways of assuring capability
  • Our facilities and expertise provide the ability to emulate these threats and the right environment to test responsiveness
Operational readiness
  • Large scale capabilities, such as aircraft carrier task groups, require more integrated and complex ways to assure their operational readiness
  •  Our unique ability to leverage our multiple sites and facilities to effectively test these types of platforms and train their crews means our customers can be sure they work when critically needed