Three Boeing P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft for the first time fired AGM-84D Harpoon missiles during a NATO’s three week-long At-Sea Demo/ Formidable Shield 2021 exercise.
Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4) successfully conducted a coordinated missile launch with VP-40 using two Air-to-Surface Missile (AGM-84D) Harpoons against a target barge off the coast of Norway on May 31, the Navy said.
This marked the first use of Harpoon missiles by P-8A Poseidons in the European theater.
“Having multinational allies, with whom we are capable of integrating seamlessly within the air and maritime domains, is critical to our strategic and operational objectives in the North Atlantic,” said Cmdr. Johnny Harkins, VP-4 commanding officer. “Our Combat Aircrews demonstrated their expertise using the P-8A to enhance the common operating picture in support of multi-unit strike operations.”
The AGM-84D gives the Poseidon the ability to challenge enemy naval movements, either in support of offensive operations or in order to defend friendly forces. The planes are also capable of carrying and releasing AN/ALE-55 towed decoys, carried in under-wing pods similar to those carrying the missiles, which can jam enemy radar or lure incoming radar-homing missiles away from the aircraft.
Throughout the exercise, NATO forces conducted live engagements with Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight (DART) munitions, Standard Missile-2, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), Aster 15, and Aster 30 missiles against various targets, including subsonic Banshee, Mirach, and Firejet targets and ground-launched supersonic drone (GQM-163A) targets. Additionally, ballistic missile defense tests with Standard Missile-3 launches were conducted.
At-Sea Demonstration is a recurring live maritime exercise planned and supported by the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F), a coalition of twelve nations with a focus on improving interoperability and force capabilities in maritime missile defense.
Formidable Shield is a biennial training exercise led by U.S. Sixth Fleet and conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO which aims to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) environment using NATO command and control reporting structures.
In total, approximately 3,300 personnel, 16 naval vessels, and more than 10 aircraft participated in the training exercise conducted on the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles of Scotland and the Andøya Space Defense facility in Andenes, Norway. Alongside the United States, participating nations included Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
VP-4 is currently assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 67 and is deployed to the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility. CTF 67 is composed of land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate over the waters of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic conducting anti-submarine, reconnaissance, surveillance, and search and rescue missions.