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Biggest NATO exercise in decades comes to north coast of Scotland

By John Davidson

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Live firing on HMS Defender during a previous exercise. Picture: Royal Navy
Live firing on HMS Defender during a previous exercise. Picture: Royal Navy

The firing range at Cape Wrath will be the focal point for part of the largest NATO exercise in decades next week as allied nations join forces.

The Royal Navy said the seas off the north coast will play a significant part in the Steadfast Defender exercise which has been ongoing since last month and will continue until the end of March.

Exercise Joint Warrior, a two-week joint exercise which takes place twice a year off the north of Scotland, will this year be part of this much larger NATO exercise.

The alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America.

There will be only limited activity in Scottish waters from Monday, February 26, until March 3.

Joint Warrior will then lead into Exercise Nordic Response 24, with activity moving to the waters off Norway.

Gunnery exercises will take place from Monday to Thursday next week on the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Firing Range, with NATO forces and partner nations training together to develop skills in the coordination of naval gunfire.

Participating nations in Joint Warrior include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

HMS Defender pictured during a previous exercise. Picture: Royal Navy
HMS Defender pictured during a previous exercise. Picture: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy says that exercises like Joint Warrior are vital tools which allow the NATO Allied nations to work and train together in a realistic, but controlled environment. Military personnel have the opportunity to hone their skills and test the latest technologies in order to better protect NATO communities from ballistic missile threat.

More than 7000 personnel will be afloat in vessels including aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, frigates, patrol vessels, minehunters, submarines, and auxiliaries.

In addition, there will be approximately 100 fast jets and 30 helicopters involved, supported by surveillance, patrol, and air-to-air refuelling aircraft throughout.

Planned by Joint Training and Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS), this year the exercise will be coordinated and controlled from the Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway.

Exercise planning staff have liaised with a wide variety of communities and organisations ahead of the exercise to minimise the impact of military activity.

Further information on Exercise Joint Warrior, including notices to mariners and impact statements, can be found at www.royalnavy.mod.uk/khm/clyde/safety-and-regulations/regulations/safety-guidelines

Scottish Exercise Areas (SXAs) are managed through Fleet Ops in Northwood. The Fleet Ops waterspace manager can be contacted on 01923 956371.

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