In January and February 2023, Norwegian fighter planes monitor Icelandic airspace on behalf of NATO.
It is once again Norway's turn to guard the Keflavik NATO base.
Iceland does not have its own air force and the island state therefore receives support as a NATO country with the periodic presence of air defenses and airspace surveillance in times of peace. The mission is called "Iceland Air Policing" (IAP), and in January and February of this year, Norway is carrying out the task on behalf of NATO.
IAP is a NATO-led mission where there is a periodic rotation between the alliance's member countries to meet Iceland's need for sovereignty assertion.
Last week, Norway sent four F-35 fighter jets to the Keflavik base in Iceland. Two of the Norwegian fighters are in continuous readiness, ready to move out within minutes if unknown aircraft come close to Iceland airspace.
The preparedness is called "Quick Reaction Alert" (QRA) and it corresponds to the Norwegian daily mission of the F-35 in Evenes, Northern Norway. The mission started on the 19th of January and will continue for three weeks until around the 9th of February 2023.
It shows that we want and will contribute to protecting NATO in the north.
Detachment Commander Lieutenant Colonel Trond Haugen says the mission is important for Norway:
"Although we are not fully operative with our F-35s, we show that Norway wants and can contribute to protecting NATO in the north. This is the third time we solve this mission with F-35 in Iceland, but Norwegian forces have previously also solved the mission with F-16."
QRA involves monitoring the country's airspace, as well as overseeing all traffic in and around the airspace. If necessary, the QRA aircraft can escort foreign aircraft out of the NATO area or to designated airports. Or they could transfer the authority of the QRA aircraft to civil authorities, should a civilian hijacking take place.
QRA is a 24/7 mission that is carried out on the behalf of NATO.
The mission is also important for Norway; along the way, the Norwegian Armed Forces get to test and operate the F-35s and its supporting functions, also outside of Norway.
The Norwegian force in Iceland amounts to just under 100.
"There is a lot in the name "Iceland Air Policing". That is exactly what we are doing with this assignment. We are patrolling the Icelandic airspace and showing our presence. This mission is in rotation within NATO, since Iceland does not have its own air defense. We in Norway are especially used to the weather and wind conditions in Iceland which are not too different from what we have at home," says Haugen.
It is therefore natural that Norway is in Iceland at this time of the year.
In addition to the three weeks the assignment lasts, a period of transport, establishment, and return come in addition.
Norwegian forces are familiar with this type of mission and solve such a mission on a daily basis from Evenes, Northern Norway, with the Armed Forces' F-35 fighter jets.
"Previously, we solved the mission from Bodø with our F-16. What is special about this time is that we are testing a minimum solution for what we need to quickly depart our base at home to a place that needs our support quickly. So far, this has worked very well, and we were certified for the mission by NATO last week," concludes Trond Haugen.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.