Six Italian Air Force F-35 fighter aircraft have landed at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, for a six-week NATO deployment.

“Air Policing is a very important duty for the Alliance. In that regard, even in these difficult times, Italy is deploying F-35 fighters to Iceland to fulfil its task,” said Colonel Michele Cesario, Commander of the Italian F-35 detachment in Iceland after the arrival of the fighter aircraft at Keflavik Air Base in a news release.

“We are very pleased to be back and we will continue to build on the relations with our hosts from the Icelandic Coast Guard. Together, we have been working hard to ensure that current COVID-19 restrictions will not have any impact on the operation itself and I am confident the results will show that we made it. This operation represents another excellent example of the cohesion among NATO members.”

This is the second time after the spring of 2019, that Italy has deployed its fifth generation fighter aircraft to the Allied mission providing interceptor capabilities to safeguard Icelandic airspace.

In 2013, 2017 and 2018, Italy deployed their Eurofighter aircraft in support of the mission.

Recently, the Canadian Armed Forces concluded the deployment of a Royal Canadian Air Force detachment and a mobile air surveillance radar system to Iceland with redeploying all personnel and materiel to Canada. The mission of Operation ILLUMINATION was to ensure continuity of long-range radar coverage while Iceland’s stationary radars underwent an upgrade.

“Throughout our deployment under Operation ILLUMINATION, the members of Air Detachment-Iceland have demonstrated unparalleled professionalism and flexibility at every turn; I am proud to have commanded such an exemplary group,” said Major Jonathan Gilbert, Commanding Officer, Air Det-Iceland/Operation ILLUMINATION.

“Our mandate since we began operations has been to support Iceland while the country modernized its surveillance radar systems, which are of strategic importance to NATO as the radars provide situational awareness in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap.”

After having operated the AN/TPS-70 radar at two of the Icelandic Coast Guard sites and monitoring Icelandic coastal approaches, NATO state that the 25-strong team redeployed and arrived in Canada on May 26th, 2020

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My hats off to the Italians – they have a much smaller defence budget than us but can field a very potent AF.

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Aah, that explains the Italian B767 Tanker seen in the vicinity!