Italy has deployed six of their F-35 fighter aircraft to Keflavik Air Base in Iceland to execute NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission safeguarding Icelandic airspace.
This is the first time a modern 5th generation fighter aircraft is executing the Icelandic Air Policing mission. For Italy, it is the fifth time – and the second time in 2019 – supporting this NATO mission.
After an initial series of briefings and familiarisation flights, the Italian Air Force detachment was declared mission ready – two days ahead of time – to conduct NATO’s peacetime Icelandic Air Policing mission. During a ceremony held at Keflavik Airbase on Saturday, Oct. 5, Lieutenant Colonel Wilhem May from NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Uedem, Germany, handed over the mission readiness certificate to the detachment commander.
“I am very proud of the achieved result”, said Colonel Stefano Spreafico, commander of the Italian detachment. “We managed to reach this milestone two days in advance of the expected timeline and that has been done thanks to a fantastic teamwork of all the Task Force personnel and thanks to the great support of the team from Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem and of our Icelandic hosts” he added during the ceremony.
The event that marked the official beginning of the mission was also attended Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, Deputy Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command, the entity that oversees all Air Policing, as well as Italy’s Chief of Defence, General Enzo Vecciarelli.
“For the first time the F-35, a modern 5th generation fighter aircraft, is going to be employed by NATO to safeguard the Alliance’s airspace executing NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission,” Lieutenant General Delerce said in his speech during the ceremony. “It’s representing a major step towards the integration of modern fighter aircraft into Alliance missions, demonstrating the Alliance’s capability to advance, adapt and integrate new technology”, he continued.
Given its unique geographical location and since Iceland doesn’t have the necessary capability of its own, Allies, in conjunction with the Icelandic authorities, have agreed to maintain a periodic presence of NATO fighter aircraft at Keflavik to help keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure. The mission usually involves the deployment of fighter aircraft from Allied nations, typically of around three to four weeks, three times a year.
The Italian F-35 aircraft fleet achieved initial operational capability in November 2018 and is based at Amendola Air Base.