The Royal Danish Air Force is currently conducting exercises and patrolling airspace in northeast Iceland as a part of the country’s agreement with NATO.
The roar of fighter jets has been heard from Akureyri to Egilsstaðir, RÚV reports, as four F-16s from Denmark are conducting patrols of the area. The jets have been landing at and taking off from airports in both towns fairly frequently, which has not gone unnoticed by local residents.
“We have only received a few complaints,” Jón B. Guðnason, the managing director of the Airspace and Security Department of the Icelandic Coast Guard, told reporters. “We’ve mostly been getting calls from people in Akureyri who have a special interest in planes, and have asked for maybe a little more noise.”
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 – and Russia does pay attention when other NATO countries skip their turn to patrol Iceland.
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.