As part of the NATO Icelandic Air Policing mission, the Polish Air Force has deployed multiple Lockheed Martin F-16C/D-52+ Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters to Iceland for a several-week deployment through September.
The Polish Air Force deployed of four F-16C/D-52+ Fighting Falcons and approximately 140 personnel from the 32 Baza Lotnicza (32nd Air Base) in Łask, Poland. During the deployment, the fighters will perform both routine training flights and operational air policing missions from Keflavik Air Base, Iceland. The Polish fighters departed for Iceland on August 18.
With Iceland being a NATO country but having no active Air Force, up until the USAF maintained a permanent force presence in Iceland to ensure the Icelandic airspace was safe. In 2008, it was launched that air policing operations over Iceland will be carried out collectively by NATO allies, this turning the operations into a rotational schedule for multiple allied fighter units.
With Iceland’s unique geographical location, it is agreed by both Icelandic authorities and allies that the appropriate presence of NATO fighter assets is required to keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure. This by routine flying, staying prepared, monitoring, and managing Iceland’s airspace during peacetime.
This deployment marks the first time Polish F-16s have operated out of Iceland for NATO air policing operations, joining ten other NATO allied nations who have operated out of Keflavik Air Base. The Polish Air Force were scheduled to deploy to Iceland in 2010, but due to budget restrictions had to withdraw from the operation. The Polish F-16s will take over the air policing role from the USAF's 493rd Fighter Squadron ‘The Grim Reapers’ and its Boeing F-15C Eagles, which are based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk. This unit concluded its annual rotational deployment to Iceland in late July.
The contingent commander is Lt Col Michał Kras, a very experienced F-16 pilot who has experience in conducting multiple missions abroad. He said to the deploying personnel: "I know that we will perform this joint task with flying colours. Because you are the best, you are a team of professionals. It is the 42nd rotation of the allied NATO mission in this region. I don't want to be compared with the previous ones. I want the next ones to be compared with us. And I am convinced that it will be so."