Norwegian F-35s Have Deployed To Iceland for NATO Air Policing Mission

On Feb. 19, 2020, four RoNAF F-35A aircraft arrived in Iceland, where they have deployed to support NATO’s Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASIC IPPN) mission. The purpose of the NATO mission, initiated in 2008, after the withdrawal of US forces from the island, is to provide air surveillance and interception coverage over Iceland, in order to maintain the integrity of the NATO airspace.

The RNoAF F-35s will carry out a 3-week deployment with some 130 military and civilian personnel; Norwegian Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) personnel will be working alongside their Icelandic Coast Guard colleagues in the CRC at Keflavik Air Base.

One of the four Norwegian Air Force F-35 touching down at Keflavik Air Base deploying its brake chute. (Image credit: Sigurd Tonning Olson).

RNoAF is the second F-35 operator to deploy the 5th generation aircraft in support of NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing: the first one was the Italian Air Force, that deployed its Lightning II jets to Keflavik in October 2019.

Norwegian F-35As achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) on November 6, 2019, becoming the third European country to reach IOC with the F-35 after Italy and the UK. The deployment to Iceland is a milestone towards full operational capability in 2025. The RNoAF plans to replace its F-16s, that are currently performing Quick Reaction Alert missions, by 2022, when there will be enough F-35s (out of 52 ordered), pilots and maintainers available to deploy to Evenes Air Station (Northern Norway).

Norwegian F-35s are unique compared to other nations’ F-35s as they are the only ones to use a drag chute during landing, housed in a special fairing on the upper rear fuselage between the vertical tails. It can be used to rapidly decelerate Norwegian F-35s after landing on icy runways under windy conditions.

In Octore 2019 Defense News reported that the drag chute was failing more than expected and that the Royal Norwegian Air Force was working with the Pentagon to fix the issue.