RAMSTEIN, Germany – After eight weeks patrolling the skies over Iceland, the Portuguese Air Force completed their deployment carrying out NATO's Air Policing mission here on March 31.
A detachment of four F-16M fighter aircraft and 155 Portuguese Air Force deployed to Keflavik Air Base at the end of January to familiarize with the local airspace and work with the Icelandic Cost Guard and NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem providing interceptor capabilities for the enduring mission.
The Icelandic winter provided great training value to our ground personnel and pilots; they had to operate in extreme conditions during these two months to maintain an operational F-16 fleet
"The great support from the host nation has guaranteed a smooth and rewarding deployment," underlined Major Gonçalves. "The biggest challenge we faced during these two months was definitely the severe weather conditions. The Icelandic winter provided great training value to our ground personnel and pilots; they had to operate in extreme conditions during these two months to maintain an operational F-16 fleet," he added.
Portuguese F-16 patrolling over Iceland during their recent deployment as part of the NATO Air Policing mission. Photo by Portuguese Air Force.
F-16 ready on alert at Keflavik Airbase, Iceland. The crews are ready to react to any incident in the High North or Icelandic airspace. Photo courtesy of Portuguese Air Force.
During their stay, the Portuguese Detachment' F-16M aircraft, commanded by Major João Gonçalves, completed 260 flight hours in the skies of the High North integrating into the collective NATO-wide defensive structures establishing air surveillance and interception capability over Iceland.
The peacetime preparedness mission in Iceland usually involves Allied fighters deploying to Keflavik for several weeks. Once settled in, they 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. This was the second time Portugal participated in the mission after 2012 demonstrating cohesion among the members from across the Alliance.