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Apr 1 2021

STEADFAST ARMOUR 2021 - Why is it important to spend resources and energy on Europe's Integrated Air and Missile Defense?

Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) in collaboration with U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) completed the second phase of the NATO Exercise STEADFAST ARMOUR 2021 (STAR-21), conducted alongside the German-Dutch Exercise JOINT PROJECT OPTIC WINDMILL (JPOW-21), between March 14-26, 2021.

The latest developments and proliferation of new unmanned aeronautical vehicles and new missile technology give potentially unfriendly states and organisations a potential advantage. To counter that, proactive NATO exercises are one of several tools available. The STAR21 exercise showcases interoperability and coherence amongst the participating nations, and is one piece of a larger puzzle designed to maintain peace.

The integration of STRIKFORNATO and SIXTHFLT personnel in a planning and operations cycle is critical to increasing our collective knowledge and understanding of the rapidly evolving IAMD environment

STAR-21 is NATO's premier exercise of the Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) mission, executed at all levels from the Strategic to the Tactical (unit level). The exercise utilizes existing plans and procedures in a simulated scenario defending NATO European populations, territory and forces.

STRIKFORNATO personnel and Naval Reservists from the SIXTHFLT focused on the planning and execution of Integrated Air and Missile Defence tasks within a large-scale NATO mission. The team worked with various other NATO headquarters around Europe (Supreme Allied Headquarters, NATO Allied Air Command, Allied Joint Force Command Brunsum, Allied Joint Force Command Naples) and various National units to defend against simulated air and missiles attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

They simulation created synergy between operational and tactical level commanders not found in many exercise events. This construct serves to create a rapid feedback loop of planners to operators and back, which is unique to JPOW, and critical in improving skills while learning the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures to ensure NATO forces are ready to face any threats. The shift from a strictly Ballistic Missile Defence event to a larger IAMD event better represents the mission of STRIKFORNATO as well as the other NATO and National Headquarters. The shift also demonstrates to the operators and their superiors, the complexity of the future IAMD environment with units that are mission flexible but low in density across the Alliance.

"The integration of STRIKFORNATO and SIXTHFLT personnel in a planning and operations cycle is critical to increasing our collective knowledge and understanding of the rapidly evolving IAMD environment. Our Team will return better educated and plugged into the capabilities of Alliance Systems and the latest tactics. STRIKFORNATO remains NATO's critical maritime defence against Ballistic Missiles and other airborne threats. Exercises like STEADFAST ARMOUR and JOINT PROJECT OPTIC WINDMILL provide us critical venues to improve our collective capabilities in defence of the Alliance." said Brigadier General Marcus Annibale, STRIKFORNATO's Chief of Staff."

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The STRIKFORNATO and SIXTHFLT teams are now shifting their focus to the culmination of the STAR series, the At-Sea Demonstration/Formidable Shield 2021 (ASD/FS-21) live fire event, where ships, aircraft, and ground units from 11 NATO nations join together to test these systems in live operations. This final event completes the STAR objectives, with phase 1 focused on planning, phase 2 on integration, and the final phase on live weapon testing. ASD/FS-21 takes place in various locations at sea, in the air, and around the globe as live units participate in one of the largest IAMD exercises in Europe, in which ballistic missile targets are launched over a distance of 1000+ km.

STEADFAST ARMOUR 2021 is the premier missile defence exercise of the year for NATO, showcasing the fusion of sensors, weapon systems, and operators' abilities to meet current and future threats to the Alliance.

Story by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO

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