F-16s Deploy from Germany to Iceland for Air Policing Mission

A quartet of F-16 fighters and some 100 Airmen from the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, arrived in Keflavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22 to take over the NATO Air Policing mission there—the first deployment of U.S. Air Force fighters to Iceland in two years. 

The arrival of the F-16s detachment comes a month after three B-2 bombers departed Keflavik, wrapping up a month-long Bomber Task Force deployment there. 

In a social media post, NATO Allied Air Command wrote that the F-16s would “conduct Air Surveillance missions and provide interceptors for NATO’s Air Policing mission in the High North.” In a release, NATO stated the deployment would last until Nov. 12. 

Like other NATO allies that lack combat air forces, Iceland hosts a rotation of allied fighters to keep its airspace secure. Unlike air policing missions in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, NATO does not maintain a continuous presence in Iceland, however, instead deploying forces for three to four weeks three times per year. 

Most recently, Norwegian F-35s deployed to Keflavik in January. The last American fighters to deploy to Iceland did so in July 2021, when F-15s from RAF Lakenheath, U.K., fulfilled the rotation

“The mission demonstrates U.S. commitment to the NATO Alliance, security in Europe and the strong transatlantic bond among our members,” Maj. Clifford Peterson, 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron detachment commander, said in a statement. 

Images shared by NATO Allied Air Command also showed a C-130J Super Hercules from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, carrying F-16 support personnel to Iceland. 

A C-130J Super Hercules tactical aircraft carrying F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft support personnel departs Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany to support North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air Surveillance and Policing at Keflavik International Airport, Iceland, October 22, 2023. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Max J. Daigle

Deploying F-16s from a German base to Iceland comes as the U.S. Air Force is shuffling aircraft and personnel around the globe. B-1 bombers recently landed at RAF Fairford, U.K., for another Bomber Task Force rotation, while in the Middle East, F-16s from the New Jersey Air National Guard have joined five other fighter squadrons in the region as the U.S. bulks up its Middle East presence in an effort to deter any expansion of the Israel-Hamas War. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, B-52 bombers are flying missions out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, amidst a BTF deployment.