On 14 October, the Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripen fighters underwent a certification qualifying them to officially conduct air surveillance and interception missions over Iceland on behalf of NATO. After training and orientation flights in the Icelandic airspace on 13 October, the pilots from Caslav Air Base in central Bohemia currenty deployed to Keflavik airport, Iceland, underwent this certificationthat was conducted by NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany.
Since 15 October the Czech Air Force detachment has established a 24/7 readiness posture which will end in early December 2014. During this time the detachment will be tied into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NIAMDS) and protect the Iceland airspace with four JAS-39 Gripen fighters.
"Congratulations. The deployed force is ready!" said German Air Force Colonel Thomas Leibinger, head of the CAOC Uedem certification team. "Welcome to the group of NATO nations certified to execute this important mission of Alliance solidarity here in the north." Colonel Leibinger handed over the certificate to the Czech detachment and wished them safe flying in the Icelandic airspace.
"This tremendous achievement is the result of the efforts of all of us," said Czech Air Force Detachment Commander, Colonel Martin Nezbeda. "More importantly, it is due to the diligent long-term planning we did at our home base at Caslav."
The Gripen arrived in Iceland on Friday, 10 October, after a four and a half hour flight. They were accompanied and refueled by an Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker aircraft. Over the weekend all necessary preparations were conducted to meet existing requirements and standards for the performance of the operational mission.
The advance party had arrived already on 6 October. The ground crews preparing and servicing the fighters also pla an important role. During the certification flights they had an opportunity to demonstrate their skills ensure efficient and safe operation of the aircraft in challenging climatic conditions.
The Czech Air Force is currently conducting two 24/7 missions: They ensure Air Policing at home and they conduct Air Surveillance and Interception in Iceland. Back in 2009 and 2012 it was in a similar situation, when in addition to the home mission they protected the Baltic airspace over Lithuanian, Latvia and Estonia.
Since early 2008, following the withdrawal of US forces in 2006, NATO has maintained "airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet Iceland's peacetime preparedness needs". This peacetime mission conducted by CAOC Uedem, Germany, is a visible expression of NATO's commitment to Icelandic security.