The US military has characterised the Keflavík NATO base as a “forward location” for their B-2 bombers, which refuelled in Iceland last week. Meanwhile, Iceland’s Parliament may soon be voting to have more control over operations at the base. The issue is particularly pertinent as numerous US military aircraft are touching down at Keflavík International Airport ahead of tomorrow’s visit from US Vice President Mike Pence.
According to a press release from the US Air Forces In Europe & Air Forces Africa, two B-2 bombers landed in Keflavík on August 28th where a “hot-pit refuelling” was conducted, wherein the plane is refuelled without shutting down the engines.
“The use of strategic bombers in Iceland helps exercise Naval Air Station Keflavik as a forward location for the B-2,” the statement reads in part, “ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force to assure, deter and defend the U.S. and its allies in an increasingly complex security environment.”
These bombers, while originating in the US, took off from RAF Fairford in the UK. “The purpose of the flights was to conduct theater familiarization for aircrew members and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to allies and partners through the global employment of our military forces,” the statement continues. “U.S. Strategic Command regularly tests and evaluates the readiness of strategic assets to ensure we are able to honor our security commitments.”
The growing militarisation of the Keflavík base has been a controversial topic in Iceland. Although the Icelandic government has been cooperating with US military authorities, an MP for the ruling Left-Green Party wants to grant Parliament greater control over whether and how the base is developed, or whether there are even troops at the base at all.
As the US military presence is growing in the region, with a keen eye on Russia in the North Atlantic, even Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has been critical of the increased presence, having hinted at Parliament needing more of a say over such matters.
While Iceland is a NATO country, it has no standing army, and so NATO countries frequently conduct air patrol exercises in the country. At the same time, the growing US military presence in Iceland is not only beyond that purview; the Leftist-Greens, as a party, have for a long time held “Iceland out of NATO” as a core platform point.
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