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A massive international military exercise has started activity around the Western Isles with an air-to-air live fire engagement by the Italian Air Force.

On Friday (12 May), as Royal Navy submarine-hunter HMS Penzance tied up in Stornoway harbour, F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft were flying on QinetiQ’s Hebrides Range.

It’s all part of the NATO exercise Formidable Shield 2023 and, according to a NATO bulletin yesterday (Monday 15), has been helped to success by the strong support and technical expertise of the MOD Hebrides Range.

Cmdr. John-Michael ‘Guts’ Gutierrez, Formidable Shield air operations lead coordinator, said: “The professionalism of our Italian Air Force allies and the extraordinary capability of the world-class MOD Hebrides Range shone through in successfully completing this complex air-to-air scenario.”

QinetiQ managing director Jim Graham said: “We want to congratulate the Italian Air Force on their recent success in the early stages of Formidable Shield 23. We look forward to further achievements during this series of exercises. We in QinetiQ are proud to be an enabling partner for Formidable Shield 23.”

NATO Allies continue with the exercise until 26 May, with 13 NATO and partner nations, more than 20 ships and 35 aircraft now active around the Hebrides.

There are also eight ground units with radar, advanced surface-to-air missile systems and high mobility artillery rocket systems, with approximately 4,000 personnel training alongside them.

Throughout Formidable Shield, forces will participate in a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets, and will also test 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft capabilities.

The pictures show yesterday’s exercise activity on board HMS Defender, conducting live firing drills around the Outer Hebrides (Strikfornato on Twitter).