Italy’s F-35s Have Completed The NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing Mission

Close up view on one of the F-35s of the 13° Gruppo. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

Mission accomplished for the Italian F-35 Lightning II stealth jets.

With an official ceremony held at Keflavik International Airport (KIA), the Italian Air Force has completed its rotation in support of NATO’s air policing mission in Iceland. Dubbed “Operation Northern Lightning”, the Italian mission had started on Sept. 24, when the first formation of four F-35A Lightning II, belonging to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) left Amendola AB for Keflavik supported by a KC-767A tanker with the 14° Stormo from Pratica di Mare, a C-130J of the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade) from Pisa, and a P-72A Maritime Patrol Aircraft beloning to the 41° Stormo from Sigonella. Two more F-35A landed at KIA on Sept. 25.

Operating as part of the TFA (Task For Air) 32nd Wing, the Italian 5th generation jets achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) on Oct. 1, 2019, and the FOC (Final Operational Capability) on the following day, Oct. 2, two days ahead of the initial schedule. The mission readiness certificate was handed over by Lt. Col. Wilhem May from NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany, to the TFA commander Col. Stefano Spreafico during a ceremony held at Keflavik on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

For more than three weeks, the F-35As of the TFA 32nd Wing provided NATO QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) capabilities to meet Icelandic peacetime preparedness needs working with the controllers at the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany and the Control and Reporting Centre at Keflavik.

During their stay in the Arctic region, the F-35s performed 20 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) and flew 150 FH (Flight Hours) with an efficiency of the aircraft close to 100 percent.

Operation Northern Lightning marked the first time the F-35 of any partner nation operated under NATO command.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.