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Italy deploys F-35 on first NATO mission

26 September 2019
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One of six Italian Air Force F-35s that deployed to Iceland on 26 September, where they will perform the type’s first NATO air surveillance and air policing mission Source: NATO Allied Air Command

The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has deployed six Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) combat aircraft to Keflavik Airbase to conduct NATO air policing and training duties over Iceland.

The deployment, which includes an AMI Boeing KC-767 tanker, marks the first time a nation has committed the F-35 to an operational NATO mission. The aircraft and their support personnel arrived in Iceland on 26 September and will remain until the end of October, NATO Allied Air Command said.

The AMI will spend the first week conducting familiarisation flights over Iceland under the control of the Iceland Coast Guard Control and Reporting Centre Loki at Keflavik. The detachment will then be certified by NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany, to fly air policing missions in Iceland's airspace.

For the 'Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to Meet Iceland's Peacetime Preparedness Needs' mission, as NATO officials call the deployment, alliance members undertake three- to four-week rotations within one of three four-month windows throughout the year. Typically countries contribute four aircraft per deployment, although this number is flexible.

Italy's latest deployment is the country's fifth time in Iceland and comes just months after it sent a detachment of Eurofighter Typhoons in March. The mission has also previously been flown by Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. A planned deployment by the United Kingdom in 2008 was cancelled following its diplomatic row with Iceland over the Nordic nation's banking crisis, although in 2018 it was announced that the Royal Air Force (RAF) would deploy later this year. Further to the NATO members, both Finland and Sweden have deployed fighter aircraft to Iceland for training purposes.

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