NATO aircraft will once again return to Icelandic airspace, to conduct military exercises over the course of the next few weeks.
The Icelandic Coast Guard has announced that on April 13, about 200 members of the US Air Force will come to Iceland, bringing with them four F-15 jets (shown above) and one KC-135 Stratotanker fuelling plane. These planes will conduct aerial exercises in Akureyri and Egilsstaðir from April 15 to 17.
The exercises are conducted as a part of Iceland’s agreement with NATO. Having no military of its own, Iceland allows other NATO countries to maintain basic air surveillance. This follows a rotation through militarised NATO countries, with surveillance exercises lasting about a month at a time in most cases.
NATO has publicly declared the importance of Iceland in the organisation, but there has been criticism of Iceland’s involvement closer to home. In recent years, it has come to light that Iceland contributed financially to a commando squad that was engaging in torture in Iraq, that spending as a part of NATO increased while social programmes were being cut, and the aircraft exercises themselves have been criticised for disturbing wildlife.
On the plus side, the exercises do come in handy when Russian military aircraft happen to pass through Icelandic airspace, often without notifying Icelandic authorities first.
US military personnel from the Air Force and the Navy were once stationed at a base in Keflavík. The end of the Cold War and a re-distribution of the armed forces led to the base’s closing in 2006.