May 7 (UPI) -- Nine nations, led by the U.S. 6th Fleet, on Tuesday began Formidable Shield, a live-fire integrated air and missile defense exercise in Scotland that lasts through May 19.
The biennial Formidable Shield is designed "to assure allies, deter adversaries and demonstrate our commitment to collective defense of the alliance," according to a U.S. Navy 6th Fleet news release.
Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Britain and the United States are contributing 13 ships, more than 10 aircraft and approximately 3,300 personnel to the exercise at Britain's Ministry of Defense's Hebrides Missile Range, near Scotland's Western Isles. Ships are docked at Faslane Naval Base in Scotland.
Belgium and Germany also will support the exercise with staff officers embarked with Task Group IAMD.
"Exercise Formidable Shield 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. 6th Fleet and commander of 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."
She said the maritime operations provide a "tremendous opportunity to enhance our interoperability and test our capabilities as we collectively work to maintain a safe, secure and prosperous European region."
During the exercise, the nations' forces will share common tactical pictures and situational awareness, as well as conduct NATO-level mission planning and engagement coordination, and exercise force-level, pre-planned responses with capabilities and limitations.
"Exercise Formidable Shield 2019 will once again help us refine our air and missile defense capabilities with our partners and allies by training together and demonstrating our ability to ensure the cooperative security and collective defense of the NATO Alliance," Capt. Shanti Sethi, commander of Task Group IAMD for Formidable Shield, and commander of U.S. 6th Fleet's Task Force 64.
Among the U.S. ships participating are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Carney and USS Roosevelt, as well as the USNS Medgar Evers, a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship.
Canada sent the HMCS St. John's, a Halifax-class frigate, to participate in missile firing. The frigate will fire its Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles during the training, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
Orther units participating include the Italian frigate Carlo Bergamini, Royal Navy destroyer Defender, French frigate Bretagne, Dutch frigate De Ruyter and Norwegian frigate Otto Sverdrup, according to Naval Today.
The 2017 exercise covered 932 miles west of the Scottish Hebrides, and the 434 miles from the south of Ireland to the southern tip of Iceland, according to the Thales Group, a French multinational company and military contractor.
Shipping traffic is forbidden from traveling through part of the exercise area. Several hundred passenger and cargo flights have been cordoned from the area.