Royal Navy warships HMS Dragon and HMS Lancaster join NATO for biggest missile exercise of the year

TWO Portsmouth-based Royal Navy warships are today taking part in the world’s largest test of naval air and missile defences.
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HMS Dragon and HMS Lancaster will join Devonport-based HMS Argyll as the three Royal Navy ships join NATO allies for the three week long Formidable Shield 2021.

Played out off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast, this event will see missile systems, sensors, and software tested while the hundreds of men and women operating them will demonstrate their ability to deal with the latest aerial threats.

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An exercise at a previous Formidable Shield. Picture: Royal NavyAn exercise at a previous Formidable Shield. Picture: Royal Navy
An exercise at a previous Formidable Shield. Picture: Royal Navy
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It will see live missile launches as NATO allies demonstrate their individual and collective ability to track, identify and ultimately destroy incoming threats in the skies, including testing ballistic missile defence.

HMS Dragon leads the Royal Navy’s participation as a dedicated air defence destroyer designed to shield a task group with her Sea Viper missile system.

Using her Sampson radar – the spinning ‘spiked egg’ atop her main mast – the Portsmouth-based warship has the ability to detect and follow a missile’s progress from launch to ‘splash’ (when it is destroyed).

Frigates HMS Lancaster and Argyll have Sea Ceptor systems, which also provide shorter range defence against incoming missiles and aircraft.

HMS Lancaster. Picture: Royal NavyHMS Lancaster. Picture: Royal Navy
HMS Lancaster. Picture: Royal Navy
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Both systems will be tested against supersonic high-diving targets plummeting towards the task group at speeds in excess of 12,000mph – 16 times the speed of sound – as well as sea-skimming drones simulating missiles, weaving at high sub-sonic speeds in a bid to outfox the radars tracking them.

One of Dragon’s Sea Viper missiles is set to intercept a Firejet target drone, racing over the Atlantic at more than 400mph but just 20ft above the waves.

British ships are also due to test cutting-edge software which is designed to alleviate the burden on the team in the operations room who pore over the display screens constantly looking out for potential threats.

Rear admiral James Morley, the British Deputy Commander of STRIKFORNATO, said: ‘Delivering integrated air and missile defence, and specifically ballistic missile defence, is one of STRIKFORNATO’s primary roles on behalf of the Alliance.

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‘Formidable Shield 21 is an important opportunity to further develop fighting capability and domain integration against a challenging set of realistic targets – a demonstration of our resolve to counter the threat.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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