The Italians have been declared ready to carry out the mission and have started their QRA duties in Iceland.
The TFA (Task Force Air) 32nd Wing at Keflavik, Iceland, that includes the Task Group Lightning alongside technical and logistics teams as well as a group of Air Defense controllers has achieved the FOC (Final Operational Capability) for NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing.
The certification, that came two days ahead of schedule, means the six Italian F-35 Lightning II aircraft have already started providing QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties, working with the controllers at the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany and the Control and Reporting Centre at Keflavik, Iceland.
The Italian F-35s, that have arrived in Iceland on Sept. 24-25 supported by a KC-767A tanker, a C-130J and a P-72A Maritime Patrol Aircraft, have been supporting the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) with a Standard Conventional Load (SCL) that includes the AIM-120C5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile, since March 2018, when the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), the first Italian Air Force unit with equipped the Joint Strike Fighter, has achieved an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-air role.
A similar configuration is used for QRA shifts in Iceland during those, the interceptors supporting NATO air policing, carrying live air-to-air missiles, are regularly called to perform Visual Identifications on unidentified aircraft approaching Iceland’s airspace.
Interestingly, this is the first time a partner nation deploys the F-35 in support of a NATO mission. This also mean the presence of the 5th generation in Iceland will probably attract the interest of the Russians that will probably “pay a visit” to the international airspace off Iceland to have a close look at the F-35…
Almost certainly, the Italian F-35 will not fly in stealth mode (meaning they will carry RCS Enhancers) during their stay in Iceland, in order to not give out any data/detail that could be used to “characterize” the F-35’s radar signature.