The U.S. Air Force deployed 13 F-15C/D Eagle fighter jets to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland from July 30 to Aug. 23, 2018 to conduct an Air Surveillance mission in support of NATO alliance commitments.
The deployed F-15C/D Eagles belongs to the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, England. The deployment also includes approximately 280 Airmen to support the aircraft operations.
Four of the aircraft will be tasked to the NATO Icelandic Air Surveillance (IAS) mission, and the additional nine aircraft will conduct training missions. In addition, the 31st Fighter Wing, 606th Air Control Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, will send a command and control team to support the air policing mission and provide tactical control for the fighters.
The jets began flying operations this week in support of the IAS mission, highlighting U.S. commitment to NATO and the strength of its ties with Iceland. The squadron is tasked with supplying airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its host’s peacetime preparedness needs and bolster the security and defence of allied nations. While providing critical infrastructure and support, Iceland has looked to its NATO allies to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its peacetime preparedness needs since 2008.
“Every year, we experience how qualified the air forces of the NATO nations are and how well trained they are to conduct the mission,” said Icelandic Coast Guard Capt. Jon B. Gudnason, Keflavik Air Base commander. “This is what makes NATO such a great partner.”
During their rotation at Keflavik Air Base, the 493rd EFS will maintain an alert status 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of their peacetime mission. This means they are ready to respond within minutes to any aircraft that may not properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or have a flight path on file.
“This deployment gives us the opportunity to strengthen our NATO partnerships and alliances and train in a different location while continuing to improve our readiness and capability for our alert commitment,” said Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “Our overall expectation is to maintain a professional presence in everything we do.”
To remain vigilant, the 493rd EFS performs daily “training scrambles” in which they simulate real-world alert notification and execute planned protocols to ensure a speedy response.
The United States has conducted this NATO mission in Iceland annually since 2008. NATO allies deploy aircraft and personnel to support this critical mission three times a year, with the U.S. responsible for at least one rotation annually. So far nine nations have held the reigns in support of Iceland: France, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Canada, Portugal, Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States.