The Italian Air Force made history by conducting the first air-to-air live-fire engagement during the Formidable Shield exercise series.

This successful exercise marked the first live-fire event for the MoD Hebrides Range during Formidable Shield 2023 and highlighted the importance of the exercise in honing missile defence capabilities.

The scenario, named “Umberto Nobile” in honour of Italian aeronautical engineer and explorer Umberto Nobile, involved the Italian F-2000s executing a Defensive Counter Air (DCA) tasking by engaging a Banshee Jet 80 target acting as a “leaker.”

The simulated leaker threatened French, Italian, and US surface units operating nearby. The accuracy of the combat scenario is a hallmark of the Formidable Shield exercise series, and the success of Umberto Nobile is the result of many months of deliberate planning among the Allies.

The Italian Air Force’s success in breaking barriers during the exercise underscores the complexity and utility of the exercise in honing missile defence capabilities. The technical expertise of planners and exercise participants, including those at the MoD Hebrides Range, directly contributed to the success of the scenario.

“We are thrilled to have successfully completed this air-to-air event during Formidable Shield,” said Italian Air Force Captain and chief test pilot, Mattia “Uni” Nucciarelli. “This exercise challenges our capabilities and makes us a stronger fighting force as we continue to adapt our tactics and procedures to evolving threats.”

As NATO Allies continue with the exercise over the next two weeks, the Italian Air Force’s groundbreaking engagement in Formidable Shield serves as a reminder of the importance of continued evolution and innovation in integrated air and missile defence.

This exercise remains the premier integrated air and missile defence exercise and live-fire rehearsal in the European theatre, and the success of Umberto Nobile is just another mark in its continued evolution.

Last year, Italian Eurofighters completed Nato’s eAP deployment in Romania. The eAP mission initially involved four Italian Eurofighter EF-2000A aircraft.