The United Kingdom is to send fighter aircraft to Iceland for the first time since a diplomatic spat between the two countries over the Nordic nation’s banking crisis scuppered a previous planned deployment in 2008.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on 7 June that the Royal Air Force (RAF) is to dispatch four Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft to the island next year, about 11 years after the last scheduled deployment was called off after Iceland’s banking system collapsed owing billions of pounds to UK savers. In 2016, the UK Treasury announced that it had received the final compensation payment from Iceland, resetting the relationship between the two countries.
The deployment to Iceland is part of a wider UK commitment to NATO’s current and future air policing missions. Having committed aircraft to previous missions, the RAF currently has a number of Typhoons based in Romania for NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission. Before deploying in support of NATO’s ‘Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to Meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs’ mission towards the end of 2019, the RAF will first send four Typhoons to Estonia in support of NATO’s Enhanced Baltic Air Policing Mission.
For the Iceland peacetime preparedness needs mission, NATO alliance members undertake three- to four-week rotations within one of three four-month windows throughout the year. Countries typically contribute four aircraft per deployment, although this number is flexible. The mission has previously been flown by Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United States, while Finland and Sweden have joined previous deployments to Iceland for training purposes.
Flown out of Keflavik Air Base, the mission usually involves a week of familiarisation flights over Iceland under the control of the Iceland Coast Guard Control and Reporting Centre Loki at Keflavik, before being certified by NATO’s northern Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Uedem, Germany, to fly air policing missions in the country's airspace.
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