A detachment of six Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet fighters began patrolling Iceland’s airspace as part of Operation Reassurance on May 22, 2017.
For approximately one month, Air Task Force-Iceland, based out of Keflavik Air Base, will provide a continuous air surveillance and interception capability that could be launched immediately to meet and identify unknown airborne objects within, or approaching, NATO airspace. Air Task Force-Iceland comprises Canada’s periodic contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland's Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASIC-IPPN).
“Canada is a committed NATO ally and our commitment to the transatlantic bond is as strong as ever. Air Task Force-Iceland is part of the renewal of the mandate of Operation Reassurance announced by the Government of Canada in July 2016 at the NATO Warsaw Summit in Poland,” said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.” Canada and Iceland continue to be close partners within NATO and this deployment is an example of the Canada’s continuing solidarity and collaboration with Allies to ensure safety and security in the Alliance’s airspace.”
The Task Force is commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell, who is currently the commanding officer of 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec. The Air Task Force contingent includes a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter detachment from 3 Wing and personnel support from 2 Wing Bagotville, as well as intercept controllers from 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario, for a total of approximately 180 personnel.
Air Task Force-Iceland will conduct the same activities as were previously carried out under Operation Ignition. The last deployment under Operation Ignition occurred in 2013.
Following the mission to Iceland, Royal Canadian Air Force members from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, will take part in Operation Reassurance missions in Romania beginning in September.
“The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have world-class military skills and a global reputation as a professional and capable force,” said Lieutenant-General Stephen Bowes, the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command. “Air Task Force-Iceland is another example of the [Canadian Armed Forces] having the necessary capabilities to make a meaningful contribution across the full spectrum of international operations.”
Canada and Iceland are close partners within NATO. As Iceland is the only NATO country with no standing military of its own, Canada is proud to participate in these cooperative defence activities in support of the NATO air surveillance mission.
The commitment of Canadian air assets and personnel as part of Operation Reassurance demonstrates Canada’s ability and willingness to react rapidly to potential threats by working side by side with our NATO Allies. Operation Reassurance refers to the military activities under taken by the Canadian Armed Forces since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures. Operation Reassurance is designed to reinforce the defence of NATO Allies in Central and Eastern Europe and reassure those Allies’ populations of NATO support.
The CF-18 Hornet, Canada’s multipurpose fighter jet, is ideally suited for this surveillance mission. Its pilots are trained to carry out air defence, air superiority, and tactical support missions.