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Norwegian F-16s deploy to Iceland

The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RoNAF) has deployed a detachment of Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcons to Iceland in support of a NATO training mission, the alliance reported on 29 January.

Six F-16s arrived on the island on 27 January for a one-month rotation as part of NATO's 'Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to Meet Iceland's Peacetime Preparedness Needs' mission. They are due to depart on 21 February.

Taking over from US Air Force (USAF) Boeing F-15C Eagle fighters, which deployed out of Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in the UK in late 2013, the RoNAF planes will be used to demonstrate NATO's capability to conduct air policing in defence of Icelandic airspace.

This deployment marks a first for NATO in that Finland and Sweden will join Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States in a joint training exercise.

Dubbed Iceland Air Meet (renamed from the Iceland Fighter Meet 2014 [IFM14] to reflect the participation of non-fighter aircraft), this exercise will see RoNAF F-16AMs, Finnish Air Force Boeing F/A-18 Hornets, and Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripens conduct joint airborne training operations over Iceland, alongside aerial refuelling aircraft from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and USAF, a NATO Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft operating from Norway, and search and rescue helicopters from Iceland.

The Iceland Air Meet will run from 3 to 21 February and, as is the norm for NATO operations over Iceland, the aircraft will be flown unarmed.

For the peacetime preparedness needs mission, alliance members undertake three- to four-week rotations within one of three four-month windows throughout the year. Nations typically contribute four aircraft per deployment, although this number is flexible.

The mission has so far been flown by Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. A planned deployment by the UK in 2008 was cancelled following its diplomatic spat with Iceland over the Nordic nation's banking crisis.

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