Three Royal Navy warships have joined a Nato military exercise which will be the world’s largest test of naval air defences.
The three-week-long Formidable Shield 2021 exercise began on Saturday, taking place off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Norway’s Arctic coast.
It will see live missile launches as the warships test their ability to deal with incoming threats from the air, including ballistic missiles.
HMS Dragon will lead the UK contingent joined by HMS Lancaster and HMS Argyll.
Led by the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, the 2021 version of Formidable Shield involves 15 ships, more than 10 aircraft and in excess of 3,000 personnel.
During the exercise, HMS Dragon will be challenged with intercepting a Firejet target drone weaving across the Atlantic at more than 400mph, just 20ft above the waves.
All ships will have to deal with supersonic high-diving targets plummeting towards the task group at speeds in excess of 12,000mph.
As well as testing the ships’ air defence radar and missiles, the Royal Navy will trial new software designed to reduce the burden on operators.
A total of 10 Nato nations are taking part in Formidable Shield, an exercise which occurs every two years.
The Royal Navy says rigorous safety checks and procedures are in place to ensure the ranges are safe and the risk to the surrounding area is negligible.
Rear admiral James Morely said: “Formidable Shield 21 is an important opportunity to further develop fighting capability and domain integration against a challenging set of realistic targets – a demonstration of our resolve to counter the threat.”