Missile launch from the Norwegian frigate "KNM Fridtjof Nansen".

NATO ships with missile defence drill off northern Norway

Never before has such a large group of NATO warships exercised missile defence so far north.
June 02, 2021


Neither NATO nor Norway wants to say it has anything to do with Russia’s new, long-ranged variety of cruise missiles deployed in the Arctic for the navy, air force, or mobile land units, but Exercise Formidable Shield has this week moved north to strategically important areas off Andøya in the northern part of the Norwegian Sea.

This area is within range of the new Russian cruise missiles.

NATO says in a statement that the exercise is Europe’s biggest and most complex air and missile drill “defending against a variety of missiles.”


NATO ships participating in Exercise Formidable Shield 21. Photo: Norwegian navy


16 ships and 10 aircraft from Germany, Belgium, Norway, France, the United States, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Spain have been involved since the start on May 15. The vessel group has moved north from outside Scotland to now sailing outside Andøya inside the Arctic Circle.

Norway’s navy highlights a first-time launch-and-hit with a surface-to-air missile from the frigate “KNM Fridtjof Nansen”. The target was a missile flying at supersonic speed.


NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) warnings are currently covering huge areas west of Andøya in the Norwegian Sea.

The red areas west of Andøya are marked for missile shooting and impact zones off northern Norway. Screenshot from notaminfo.com

Strong-worded protest 

Speaking with journalists at a telephonic press briefing, U.S. Rear Admiral James Morley would not confirm that the exercise is intended towards any increasing challenged posed by Russia in the north.

“This is not about any particular individual threat environment. It’s about a general trend and proliferation of both ballistic and conventional missiles, and to say nothing of the proliferation of unmanned air systems, which around the world presents a threat to both our globally deployed maritime units and the global commons upon which we depend, and both our forces ashore and people living in the land environment,” Morely said.

As recently reported by the Barents Observer, Russian Northern Fleet Commander, Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev, named NATO’s increased presence up north “provocative” and said it “threatens security” in the Arctic.

Admiral Aleksandr Moiseev is Commander of the Northern Fleet. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Commander was especially strong-worded against Norway’s position.

“Recently, the United States considers Norway as the main bridgehead in the Arctic, as a territory used for the forward presence of the Armed Forces, deployment of reconnaissance and surveillance equipment, and the development of dual-use infrastructure,” Moiseyev said.

Russia’s ballistic missile submarines are based in Gadzhiyevo north of Murmansk and patrols the eastern Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. 

This week, the Northern Fleet itself is exercising in the Barents Sea outside the Kola Peninsula with some of its most powerful warships, like the nuclear-powered battle cruiser “Pyotr Velikiy” and the missile cruiser “Marshal Ustinov”.


A submarine-launched Kalibr cruise missile from a base on the Kola Peninsula has a range to hit inside most parts of northern Norway. Other cruise missiles have much longer ranges and can hit targets in most of Scandinavia. Map: Google Map / Barents Observer




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