Working together for stronger defense

Cooperative exercises help to protect the US and its allies


A Raytheon Standard Missile-3 is launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) during Formidable Shield 17, a NATO-supported military exercise conducted off the coast of Scotland. (Photo: U.S. Navy) (Download high-resolution image)

The goal was formidable: Destroy a ballistic missile and other aerial targets even though they were launched with no warning. The challenge: Make sure systems run by the U.S. and its allies were working together, and working fast.

In a first-of-its-kind test over European waters, a Raytheon Standard Missile-3 destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target at sea, and demonstrated how well allied military systems can mesh to take down an attacking missile. The test took place off the coast of Scotland, as part of a NATO-supported military exercise dubbed Formidable Shield 17. It proved the mettle of missile defense systems from a number of countries, including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

“There’s a huge advantage when we can get everyone thinking smart about defense, when we share intelligence and situational awareness with our allies, where nations can share the costs to get access to the sensors, effectors, radars and missiles that they need,” said Mitch Stevison, vice president of Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems.

A Raytheon Standard Missile-2 and Evolved SeaSparrow Missile each intercepted a simulated enemy missile during the exercise, in addition to the SM-3. It was the first demonstration of NATO’s "smart defense" concept, with ships serving as air defense units protecting naval ballistic missile defense units.

“Every exercise is unique and some are more time-consuming to set up,” Stevison said. “There’s so much coordination that has to take place, an extra layer of operability to deal with, if we are doing something with our allies versus just with the U.S.”

Beyond ensuring that United States’ missile defense systems can operate with those of coalition partners, multinational exercises help address challenges like the integration of computer networks and communications systems. Such exercises build alliances, increase military proficiency and create trust and understanding between participating countries.

“The cumulative knowledge pays off," Stevison said. “Everything we can do to help our partners helps us. That partner may come up with a solution that helps us all take a bigger leap forward. And our allies know, in no uncertain terms, that if they are threatened by a hostile nation, we are all there to answer the call.”

Published On: 10/17/2017
Last Updated: 01/15/2018