"I am very proud of the achieved result", said Colonel Stefano Spreafico, commander of the Italian detachment. "We managed to reach this milestone two days in advance of the expected time line and that has been done thanks to a fantastic team work of all the Task Force personnel and thanks to the great support of the team from Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem and of our Icelandic hosts" he added during the ceremony.
For the first time the F-35, a modern 5th generation fighter aircraft, is going to be employed by NATO to safeguard the Alliance's airspace
The event that marked the official beginning of the mission was also attended Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, Deputy Commander of NATO's Allied Air Command, the entity that oversees all Air Policing, as well as Italy's Chief of Defence, General Enzo Vecciarelli.
"For the first time the F-35, a modern 5th generation fighter aircraft, is going to be employed by NATO to safeguard the Alliance's airspace executing NATO's peacetime Air Policing mission," Lieutenant General Delerce said in his speech during the ceremony. "It's representing a major step towards the integration of modern fighter aircraft into Alliance missions, demonstrating the Alliance's capability to advance, adapt and integrate new technology", he continued.
Given its unique geographical location and since Iceland doesn't have the necessary capability of its own, Allies, in conjunction with the Icelandic authorities, have agreed to maintain a periodic presence of NATO fighter aircraft at Keflavik to help keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure. The mission usually involves a deployment of fighter aircraft from Allied nations, typically of around three to four weeks, three times a year. For the current rotation, the Italian Air Force has deployed six F-35 fighter jets. It is the first time these modern aircraft are deployed to a mission under NATO command and control, making the current rotation a milestone for the Alliance.