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A missile and tracking testing exercise in Scottish territorial waters, under the supervision of fire commanders from the British Army's Royal Artillery, brought some unusual naval visitors to seas around the Hebrides on Friday and Saturday (19 and 20 May).

Combined missile defence exercise Formidable Shield is underway off the coast of Scotland until Friday 26 May, hosted by Commander US Navy 6th Fleet (C6F) and led by NATO, with 10 nations taking part in the exercise.

France was contributing to this with two first-class frigates – air defence frigate Chevalier Paul and the multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Bretagne.

Also at sea in the Minch was the United States naval vessel Edgar Evans, while the Spanish oiler Patino, USS Oscar Austin and Royal Navy type-23 frigate HMS Kent joined Chevalier Paul in the Atlantic.

In the middle portion of the overall exercise, the ‘war at sea’ manoeuvres linked exercises off the coast of northern Norway with operations on the Hebrides Range, in a series of gunnery and anti-submarine exercises against fictitious targets.

The FS Bretagne’s operations officer said the combined NATO abilities had been demonstrated in an extremely wide area and in challenging meteorological conditions.

Captain Jon Lipps, commander of the US Navy 6th Fleet said: “As an Alliance, we can, and often do, combine our many unique capabilities into a multinational force that deters adversaries and can defend our members if necessary.

“These capabilities, when combined as they are here in Formidable Shield, underscore the true power and potential of our Allied maritime forces across the joint domains.”

The French Naval vessel FS Bretagne is pictured being overflown by Stornoway coastguard rescue helicopter R948 just outside Stornoway harbour (Jason Spinks) and engaged in firing exercises off Cape Wrath (French Navy courtesy photo by CPO Jérôme Guegan).