Four Typhoon jet fighters have left Iceland as the Royal Air Force completed its first NATO Air Policing mission in the country.
This has been the first time since World War II that an RAF fighter squadron has been based in Iceland, close to the Arctic Circle. The RAF deployment formed part of the ongoing Air Policing mission that NATO conducts at the request of Iceland, a country with no military force.
As well as being on 24-hour stand-by to scramble in response to unidentified aircraft flying towards Icelandic airspace, the Typhoons flew 59 training sorties and more than 180 practice intercepts.
Leading the 129 deployed RAF regular and reserve personnel has been Wing Commander Mark Baker from 1(Fighter) Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. He said: “We’ve achieved the mission, first and foremost, ensuring the integrity of NATO airspace. I think we’ve also developed some excellent relationships with the people of Iceland.”
“It’s been a challenging deployment for us into a colder environment and climate than the weather conditions we’re used to back home. From an engineering perspective, that has meant certain equipment has been challenging to operate and flying has been different as well.” Added Wing Commander Baker.
“Before we came here, we were told we were coming to the land of fire and ice, and we’ve certainly experienced a lot of ice. We’ve also had an amazingly warm welcome from the people of Iceland and we are very much looking forward to coming back in the future.”
Commenting on the RAF’s departure, Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland said: “It is safe to say that this first RAF NATO Air Policing peacetime mission in Iceland has been a success. We appreciate the support from a trusted ally and neighbour, and we look forward to welcoming the RAF back for its next mission in Iceland.”
Royal Air Force aircraft have deployed to Iceland in November to contribute to NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing Mission. The jet fighters from 1(Fighter) Squadron were stationed at Keflavik Air Base until mid December before returning to their home at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
This is the first time in more than 10 years that the RAF has deployed aircraft to Iceland and is also the first time that the RAF has conducted the Icelandic NATO Air Policing mission. The mission is being conducted by a rotation of NATO Allies and started in 2008 following a request from Iceland, which does not have its own Air Force.
Photos: ©UK MoD Crown Copyright 2019.