Italy sends F-35s to Iceland as first ally to deploy fifth-gen fighters for NATO Air Policing mission

For the first time modern fifth generation fighters will execute NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission to safeguard Icelandic airspace. Italy is the first Ally to deploy F-35s to Keflavik Air Base.

Italian F-35 deployed Iceland
Italian F-35 combat aircraft deployed to Iceland under NATO air policing mission.

On September 25, 2019, the Italian Air Force deployed 140 soldiers and six F-35 fighter planes at Keflavik International Airport to take over the defense of Icelandic airspace under the NATO Air Policing mission. The aircraft come from the 13th Squadron based at the 32nd Wing, Amendola AFB, Italy. During their trip, the modern stealth aircraft were accompanied by a KC-767A tanker, a C-130J and a P-72A Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

During the next few days, Italian fighter pilots will carry out familiarization flights in order to obtain operational certification. The F-35 mission in Iceland will also include approaching practices at Akureyri and Egilsstaðir airports between September 26 and October 4.

This marks this year's second deployment of Italian fighter jets in Iceland and the first F-35 involvement in the NATO Air Policing mission. In addition to supporting the Nordic Ally, the mission offers a valuable training opportunity for the Italian Air Force, whose crews will practice in a unique geographical location and boost their skills to operate in an unfamiliar airspace.

Iceland does not have a full range of air defence assets, so this mission is executed by other NATO Allies. This ensures that Icelanders enjoy a high standard of airspace security.

Over the past ten years, nine Allies – Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the United States –have deployed fighter aircraft on the mission in Iceland. Deployments typically last three to four weeks, and take place three times a year.

The involvement of the F-35s in the NATO air defense mission confirms the plan of the Italian Air Force to use the fifth generation aircraft also as an interceptor and not only for ground attack tasks.

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Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Italian Air Force

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