More than a Missile: Formidable Shield 2023
Formidable Shield (FS) is a biennial exercise where NATO allies and partners gather to test their missile defense systems. Though it may sound like a straightforward military exercise, FS is far more complex and critical than a missile test. Over the years, FS has evolved from a scripted missile evaluation exercise into an agile and operationally focused mission rehearsal that tests the skills, frameworks, communication strategies, and equipment needed to counter missile threats in a multi-domain environment.
The Evolution of FS
FS began in 2015 as a missile test and evaluation exercise with the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMDF). However, when the U.S. Sixth Fleet picked up the exercise in 2017, it became more operationally focused. The addition of a Norwegian exercise called Mjølner to the exercise structure in 2019 proved to be a major influence on the core structure of FS. The exercise’s flexibility and agility enabled it to test a variety of capabilities, including surface engagements, communications, and electronic warfare, as well as missile defense.
The Importance of the Operational Construct
FS 2019 was focused on the operational construct, unlike its earlier iterations, which were more scripted and countdown-centric. USS 6th Fleet sought to ensure that the participating units were being utilized in the same way they would be in an actual conflict. The exercise tests how the units work together to ensure the missiles strike their targets. The exercise is like a soccer match- people work together like players scoring a goal. If the team plays well, they score, and if the units work well together, they can defend against missile threats more efficiently.
FS 2023 and Maritime Operations
The exercise is critical for NATO to ensure its missile defense capabilities can meet the latest and most advanced threats. The U.S. Navy will lead the exercise, which is expected to draw participation from a range of NATO and partner nations. The exercise will focus on testing the operators, technicians, and decision-makers who are critical to the functioning of the missile defense system. It will test the technology, people, and processes that are needed to operate and defend against threats across the full spectrum of multi-domain operations.
- Since 2015, FS has grown in size, scope and complexity, with participants and observers from around the world.
- FS presents a unique opportunity for the U.S. and NATO to test and evaluate advanced missile defense capabilities against a diverse set of targets.
- FS has tested a variety of capabilities, including surface engagements, communications, electronic warfare, and missile defense.
- FS utilizes the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex off the coast of Alaska in the United States.
FS is a critical mission rehearsal for NATO and its allies to test their missile defense capabilities in a multi-domain environment. It tests the effectiveness of technology, people, and processes. The exercise has evolved significantly over the years, becoming more agile and operationally focused. The next iteration, FS 2023, is expected to focus on maritime operations, testing the operators, technicians, and decision-makers who are critical to the functioning of the missile defense system.
FS has come a long way since its inception in 2015. The exercise has evolved from a missile test and evaluation exercise into a critical mission rehearsal for NATO and its allies to ensure its missile defense capabilities can meet the latest and most advanced threats. The exercise is more operationally focused, agile, and tests the skills, frameworks, communication strategies, and equipment needed to counter missile threats in a multi-domain environment. FS 2023 is expected to be the most advanced and operationally focused iteration of the exercise yet.