U.S. Warship Shoots Down Ballistic Missile Over Scotland in NATO Live Fire Drills

A U.S. Navy picture shows what appears to be a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft flying over the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea in this picture taken April 12, 2016 and released April 13, 2016. Two Russian warplanes with no visible weaponry flew near the destroyer in what one U.S. official described as one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Reuters/US Navy/Handout via Reuters

U.S. forces overseas joined European allies in a successful live-fire combat drill against an array of missile threats, including ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles off the western coast of Scotland.

Eight NATO allies took part in the U.S.-led Formidable Shield 2017 self-defense drill on Sunday, according to a statement by U.S. naval forces in Europe which detailed the latest maneuver.

Warships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States joined forces to carry out integrated air and missile defense in a hypothetical scenario where a ballistic missile is hurtling towards an ally and cruise missile fire is threatening allied anti-ballistic capabilities.

The U.S. ship in the drill—the U.S.S. Donald Cook—was the one launching the guided missile that successfully intercepted the ballistic threat. The missile destroyer vessel fired a Standard Missile-3 Block IB guided missile to take out the enemy weapon.

Meanwhile Spanish and Dutch frigates rushed to Donald Cook's cover, suppressing enemy fire that sought to stop the missile-destroyer from intercepting a ballistic threat. Spain's SPS Alvaro de Bazan fired an Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to halt an incoming anti-ship cruise missile while the Dutch HNLMS Tromp ship fired ESSMs in the face of two incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.

According to the U.S. Navy, the added layer of defense provided by the European ships was the first example of NATO's smart defense concept, in which air defense units rushed to the rescue of a missile defense ship such as the Donald Cook, while it was busy with a mission of its own.

The maneuver was one of several missile scenarios that allies practiced over the nearly month-long Formidable Shield exercise held at the U.K. Ministry of Defense's Hebrides Range, on Scotland's western isles. The exercise, which concludes on Wednesday, drafted 14 ships, 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from 10 allies.

"I am extremely proud of the Task Group members and their performance during these complex, live-fire engagements," said U.S. Task Force 64 Commander Shanti Sethi. "The exercise scenarios are designed to test our limits and give us a unique opportunity to truly practice how we would fight together as an alliance. We are coordinating and sharing information in real time the way we would in a real IAMD (integrated air and missile defense) operation."

Missile defense, particularly against medium and long-range missiles, has long been at the bedrock of NATO's collective security, first stemming from the threat posed by the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. As tensions with Moscow once again peaked in 2014 after Russian military actions in southern and eastern Ukraine, the importance of NATO being able to neutralize ballistic missiles has increased.

Now North Korea has also raised the concern of allies, having already showcased a rapidly increasing developing nuclear program and a widening range of its missiles. The North Korean regime has openly voiced its aspirations to construct an intercontinental ballistic missile that would put virtually any corner of the world in its strike range.