One of four Air National Guard
F-15Cs inside a shelter at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Photo by Cynthia Vernat, HQ AIRCOM PAO
Since 3 April, four F-15C fighter aircraft from 104thFighter Wing – an Air National Guard unit – and KC-135 tanker aircraft from the
Air Force Reserve Command as well as 160 airmen from the continental United
States have been deployed to Iceland to assist the country's Coast Guard with
air interception capabilities.
Following four days of practice flights to familiarize with
the local and regional airspace NATO's Combined Air Operation Centre (CAOC) at
Uedem in northwest Germany declared the F-15Cs fully operationally capable. The
pilots and crews demonstrated their proficiency at Allied tactics, techniques
and procedures and have been ready since 7 April to be launched by the CAOC under
the control of the local Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at Keflavik at a
moment's notice under NATO Air Policing arrangements.
Allies, in conjunction with the Icelandic authorities, have
agreed to maintain a periodic presence of NATO fighter aircraft based at
Keflavik to help keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure. US F-15Cs provide the
first of three such deployments in 2016.
"The F-15C Eagle fighter jets are capable aircraft built for
air-to-air operations," says Lieutenant Colonel Jeff "Monty" Beckel, the
detachment commander of the fUS F-15Cs at Keflavik. "They pick up any threats that
are long range as the aircraft integrate a radar that works well against all
threats. The extra fuel tanks and an air-to-air refuelling capability extend
the range of the jets while flying missions here." The jets are scrambled for
training flights and real-world mission as required; US fighter controllers in
the CRC at Keflavik have mission control during these sorties.
LtCol Jeff "Monty" Beckel is the US Detachment Commander of the Air National Guard F-15Cs at Keflavik Air Base, Photo by Cynthia Vernat, HQ AIRCOM PAO
"As the 104th Fighter Wing we are a
Massachusetts Air National Guard unit and we have KC-135 tanker support from
the Air Force Reserve and we have support from Spangdahlem Air Force Base in
Germany, which is an active duty component," says LtCol Beckel. "We have a wide
variety of personnel and assets – what we call Total Force Integration – working
for the NATO Air Policing. Back home our mission is also an alert mission and
we accomplish that from our home base and deployed anywhere around the world."
Out of the approximately 1,000
members in the 104th Fighter Wing only 250 are full time members. "A
lot of members have civilian jobs on the side," says LtCol Beckel. "I fly
civilian airliners as a pilot full-time and then I am a part time pilot in the ANG.
It requires quite a bit of support from the employers especially when we deploy
abroad for many months. But it means a great deal to me to be able to serve my
country with the Air National Guard as part of the Air Force."
These deployments are a visible
expression of NATO's commitment to Iceland's security and an expression of
shared responsibilities and values.
preparedness" mission usually involves a deployment (typically of around
three-four weeks, three times a year) of fighter aircraft from Allied nations.
These aircraft familiarise with the airspace and are certified by Combined Air
Operations Centre (CAOC) Uedem to execute the NATO mission in Icelandic
airspace to ensure the Alliance can conduct full-scale peacetime air policing activities
at the shortest possible notice if required by real world events.
"The Icelandic Coast Guard have
been great with their support and their facilities during our stay," concludes
LtCol Beckel. "They provide the Search and Rescue mission with their helicopters
in this harsh environment and they will pick us up should we have to eject from
our jets in an emergency."
Story by HQ AIRCOM Public Affairs
More photos at http://bit.ly/1VmG5cN