Fourteen U.S. Air Force F-15C/D Eagle fighter jets returned home to RAF Lakenheath in UK from Keflavik Air Base in Iceland last month after concluding the NATO Icelandic Air Surveillance mission.
The Eagles and more than 250 personnel from the USAF 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England were deployed to Iceland for almost a month for securing the country’s sovereign skies and conducting dedicated training.
Throughout the mission, the 493 EFS maintained a constant, vigilant alert status, poised to launch jets at a moment’s notice to intercept any unidentified aircraft encroaching on the protected airspace.
“The 493d EFS performed tremendously in Iceland,” said Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “The mission was successful due to the unwavering hard work and professionalism by the entire team.”
Climbing beyond mission demands, the 493rd EFS flew 238 sorties accumulating more than 400 flying hours, 70 of which simulated an actual alert situation. U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Airmen deploying from across Europe and Estonian military personnel as well as the Icelandic Coast Guard were paramount to IAS mission success.
“The support from the Icelandic Coast Guard was terrific from the set-up and beddown to sustaining the mission throughout our time there,” said Blake.
Since 2008, NATO partners have provided airborne surveillance and interception to Iceland meeting its peacetime preparedness needs. This deployment marks the 11th iteration of U.S. Air Force IAS participation.
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.