AF units join air defense mission in Iceland

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The final members of the 48th Air Expeditionary Group arrived at Keflavik International Airport, Iceland, Nov. 4, to conduct air surveillance and policing missions.

The group, which is made up of U.S. Air Force and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization personnel, is a specialized team prepared to ensure Iceland's air sovereignty. Their air policing encompasses radar surveillance and identification of objects in the airspace, unit officials said.

"We are committed to supporting NATO by conducting air surveillance and policing missions to contribute to its collective defense," said Lt. Col. Lendy Renegar, the 48th AEG commander.

More than 200 Airmen are deployed from around the globe to make up the 48th AEG. Airmen from Royal Air Force Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, England; Spangdahlem Air Base and Ramstein AB, Germany; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Tinker AFB, Okla., and Robins AFB, Ga., have come together to police the sky above Iceland in support of the U.S.-Iceland bilateral Defense Agreement of 1951.

Required fighter aircraft such as the F-15C Eagle may be employed to assist in identification, interception and escort of aircraft during this rotation and are on 24-hour alert.

During the 24-hour alert period, aircrew will scramble to get F-15C's up in the air within minutes to intercept unauthorized aircraft flying through Iceland's sovereign air space. The KC-135 Stratotankers from RAF Mildenhall provide tanker support to extend the effective range of fighter aircraft; the C-130J Super Hercules from Ramstein AB works closely with the Icelandic Coast Guard to deliver combat search and rescue support with a Guardian Angel pararescue team on board. 

"The Icelandic Coast Guard is one of the best rescue organizations in the world, and with our help, we provide further long-range detection capability," Renegar said. "We can extend the range of the fighters with the KC-135 refueling aircraft and also provide an airborne search and rescue team that can go out with us. We have doubled the range of the rescue capability with those two things."

Members of the Icelandic Coast Guard met with 48th AEG personnel Nov. 5 to discuss mission goals and plans.

"On behalf of the Icelandic Coast Guard and the government of Iceland we are happy to host the U.S. Air Force, our friends and neighbors of NATO," said Jon Gudnason, an Icelandic Coast Guard manager of operations at Keflavik Air Base. "Our goal is a successful completion of this mission with our NATO partners."

Renegar explained the importance of working together in financially restraining times.

"In fiscal times such as these, it helps when we have all NATO forces working together," he said. "Our top priorities are to build relationships, trust, confidence and experience while safely and successfully completing the mission."