For the first time, the Polish F-16 will patrol the ‘High North’ in support of NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing.
According to Polska-Zbrojna, the Polish Air Force is readying its Łask-based F-16s to deploy to Iceland, to support NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing. The deployment of the Polish aircraft is to begin as of August this year.
Lt. Col. Michał Kras, Detachment Commander hailing from the Polish Air Force, referred to the deployment, in the interview for Polska Zbrojna, as a demonstration of allied solidarity. The Polish Aircraft would be engaged in air policing efforts in the North Atlantic.
Icelandic Air Policing, operationally speaking, is a mission that is very similar to the Baltic Air Policing operation held in Estonia, or in Lithuania. Iceland, however, seemingly has a much higher strategic value. Another analogy can be drawn from the circumstances in which Air Policing support is required. Neither Iceland nor the Baltic States have relevant military aviation assets at their disposal which means that external assets are needed to maintain air policing continuity, geographically. It may be said that the air policing initiatives held by NATO act as the gap fillers in the integrated air defense system maintained by the Alliance.
The Icelandic Air Policing dates back to 2006. Back then, Iceland requested that its NATO allies periodically deploy fighter aircraft to Keflavik Air Base to provide protection of its airspace. The first deployment took place in 2008.
Polish Air Force F-16s would take over the Air Policing duty high north from the USAF’s 493rd Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing flying the F-15C Eagles.
Notably, the first Polish Icelandic deployment was to take place back in 2010. However, following the ramifications of the financial crisis, Poland resigned from the deployment back then, due to budgetary constraints.