A HUGE new military exercise involving thousands of troops, ships and fighter jets has begun off the Scottish coast to practice shooting down nuclear missiles fired from states such as North Korea.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said Formidable Shield would combat the threat posed by North Korea and other "rogue states", amid intensifying tensions between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

The Herald:

"North Korean tests have shown the danger of rogue states developing longer range missiles," he added.

"By hosting this cutting-edge exercise in anti-missile defence with allied navies, Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to this growing threat."

Pyongyang has fired two ballistic missiles over Japan in the past month, sparking warnings for people to take cover, after appearing to make significant advances towards creating a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

North Korea's intensifying experiments appear to have prompted the Formidable Shield exercise, which is the first time that Nato allies have practised defending against incoming ballistic missiles with no prior warning in Europe.

The Herald:

American forces are leading the exercise off the coast of the Hebrides, alongside troops from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) hailed Formidable Shield as "one of the most sophisticated and complex air and missile exercises ever undertaken in the UK".

A Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer and two Type 23 frigates are being joined by 11 other ships, 10 aircraft and 3,300 personnel for the month-long exercise. They will work together to detect, track and shoot down live anti-ship and ballistic missiles.

Steve Fitz-Gerald, Managing Director Maritime, Land and Weapons QinetiQ said, "Being able to undertake such complex and important exercises is vital for the UK's future defence capability.

"In the MOD Hebrides Range, we have a truly world-class capability on our door step that is attractive to international customers and Formidable Shield is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what the facility is capable of.

“As part of our strategy to modernise UK test and evaluation, QinetiQ will continue to invest in world-class, competitive air ranges to enable the safety and operational advantage of our Armed Forces in the 21st Century."

Nato said the "major" exercise in the Outer Hebrides aimed to foster cooperation between allies in the face of possible threats from missile attacks. Ships are being deployed to detect, track and defend against a range of live anti-ship and ballistic missiles, while being watched by Nato aircraft ensuring the airspace is clear.

Exercises will continue until 18 October in the MoD's Hebrides Range, which is based in South Uist, Benbecula and St Kilda.