The US Navy will be coming back to Iceland soon, using our island as a base for hunting for Russian submarines in the North Atlantic.
The story first broke in Stars & Stripes, the media outlet of the US military. For now, the Navy’s engagement is going to be a minimal one.
“The service is asking for funds to upgrade an aircraft hangar at its former base in Keflavik, Iceland, as part of the Defense Department’s fiscal 2017 budget request, according to Navy officials,” Stars & Stripes reports. “The hangar will house the P-8 Poseidon, successor to the sub-hunting P-3 Orion once stationed at the base.”
The article points out, likely to the surprise of many Icelanders, that the “Navy now routinely sends P-3’s to Keflavik from its air base in Sicily to patrol for Russian subs in the North Atlantic,” an official from the Navy is quoted as saying, while adding:
“For now, the Navy is only interested in deploying maritime patrol aircraft for short durations, the official said. The Navy could eventually create a permanent patrol mission at the base, the official said, which would likely resemble the Navy’s maritime patrol force at its air base in Sigonella, Sicily, where squadrons rotate out every six months.”
Why this story came to light through the American military and not by an announcement from the Icelandic government is not known. Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson told RÚV that there have been no discussions about the US military increasing its presence to previous levels, or to set up permanently in Iceland. However, the US Embassy in Iceland told RÚV that the United States and Iceland have been in continuous talks about the former NATO base in Keflavík.
News of a possible return of the US military to Iceland was reported last September, although at that time it was uncertain when or in what capacity American forces were returning. The NATO base in Keflavík was once a small village in itself, home to thousands of US military personnel, but was closed in 2006.