In an official ceremony held at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, the Italian Air Force detachment concluded its mission after four weeks providing NATO intercept capabilities to meet Icelandic peacetime preparedness needs.
This mission with our F-35s allowed the Italian Air Force to test the aircraft's operational capabilities as well as deployment, logistics and sustainability procedures in a NATO context
For the first time ever, a 5th generation fighter aircraft, the F-35, was employed in a NATO operation, showcasing Italy's commitment to contributing to Alliance missions and to integrating modern aircraft in Allied operational arrangements.
In the beginning of October, the detachment underwent certification by a team of NATO evaluators from the Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany, established Full Operational Capability for the mission and provided interceptors were on permanent standby to work with Icelandic and NATO Air Surveillance and Control System units.
Six F-35 fighter aircraft and approximately 130 men and women of the Italian Air Force were deployed at the Icelandic Coast Guard Air Base of Keflavik for NATO's peacetime Air Policing Mission in Iceland.
During this time they conducted joint training with the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Danish Navy among other practising slow mover interception procedures.
"The participation of the F-35s from 32nd Fighter Wing at Amendola has been an opportunity that allowed the Italian Air Force to test not only the operational capabilities of the aircraft, but also deployment, logistics and sustainability procedures in a special operational, climatic and environmental context "far" from our home base," said the Detachment Commander, Colonel Stefano Spreafico.
"We flew about twenty training scrambles and some 150 flying hours with almost 100 percent efficiency confirming the great reliability of the F-35 plane," he added. "It also highlighted the excellent professionalism achieved by the whole maintenance and logistics crews, who even in adverse weather conditions have always been operating at their peak," he said.
Since 2006, nine Allies have deployed their fighter aircraft on this NATO mission providing interceptor capabilities to meet Iceland's peacetime preparedness needs. Iceland has no military forces, but provides Icelandic Coast Guard personnel to conduct air surveillance and control constantly feeding into NATO's Integrated Air and Missile Defence architecture. The integration of a modern fighter aircraft into this system demonstrates NATO constantly evolves its capabilities to safeguard the Allies' airspace.