KEFLAVIK, Iceland --- The success of the NATO Icelandic Air Policing mission at Keflavik Air Base demands a multifaceted effort by both air and ground personnel working cohesively to ensure maximum peacetime vigilance for Iceland, and surrounding Arctic alliance members.
When it comes to the facet of air combat, each crucial choice falls to the critical judgement of Air Battle Managers at the Control and Reporting Center (CRC).
Composed of U.S. Airmen, a U.S. Marine, Estonia Defence Force and Icelandic Coast Guard personnel, the joint/multinational forces team uses surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management, and theater communications data capabilities to command and control all of the air operations for the IAP mission.
“Using ground based radar surveillance and other airborne platforms, we can see the entirety of the airspace, control all of the intercepts, and coordinate with multiple aircrews across the air domain spectrum to ensure their missions are conducted as safely as possible,” said U.S. Air Force Major Matthew Hannan, Air Battle Manager assigned to the 729th Air Control Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
Iceland’s geography makes it a key NATO ally, with its strategic remote radar and communication sites, providing 24/7/365 air surveillance for continued Allied operations in the Arctic.
Since NATO facilities and systems function slightly differently than those run by the U.S. Department of Defense, additional allied members with immeasurable experience of Air Policing operations provided the CRC team with detailed guidance on how to execute their respective functions with success.
“We have an extensive knowledge of NATO’s operational processes,” said Estonian Defense Force 2nd Lieutenant Rein Kikerpill. “As you would expect, everyone here is very capable, and we were able to get the team on board with that process quickly.”
Controlling the outcome of an air intercept requires composure, confidence and decisive action. For the third consecutive week, NATO forces continue to provide a steadfast layer of collective defense for the Arctic region.
“Our mission is to execute aviation command and control in line with the Joint Force Air Component commander’s mission intent,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Patrick Lauer, Air Defense Control Officer, currently attached to the 729th ACS. “As this deployment perfectly illustrates, the CRC, in tandem with the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, is capable of providing the level of deterrence required to meet Iceland’s peacetime needs.”
The United States Air Force assumed full control of NATO’s commitment to the region Oct. 12, 2020, and will complete its rotational obligation Oct. 31st. These peacetime missions remain a fundamental component to how NATO provides security to its members, and serve as the single standard for safeguarding sovereign airspace within the alliance’s area of responsibility.