Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson says he welcomes increased US Navy activity in Iceland, and first learned about their plans from the news, rather from the US military directly.
RÚV reports that the US Navy plans to devote some $21 million USD to renovating an air hangar at Keflavík airport. As reported, they plan on using Iceland as a base of operations for air patrolling the North Atlantic for Russian submarines.
At the same time, the US Navy has not ruled out increasing operations beyond this point, with one official telling Stars & Stripes, “For now, the Navy is only interested in deploying maritime patrol aircraft for short durations … The Navy could eventually create a permanent patrol mission at the base … which would likely resemble the Navy’s maritime patrol force at its air base in Sigonella, Sicily, where squadrons rotate out every six months.”
The Sigonella base, incidentally, is home to more than 4,000 troops, personnel and family members.
The Prime Minister told reporters that he welcomes the increased American military presence in Iceland, adding that there have been no formal talks with the Pentagon on the matter – in fact, he only learned about the US Navy’s plans from the local media.
“I first heard about it from the news that the American military intended to put some money in an old air hangar,” he said. “I have nothing but good things to say about this if it creates jobs for workers in Suðurnes,” where the old NATO base is located.
When asked if the large scale of the investment indicates an increased military presence, the Prime Minister dismissed any concerns on the matter.
“Of course they’re going to be flying a bit more over the country,” he said. “Which is in accordance with our standing agreement with the United States.”