Czech Air Force takes over surveillance of Icelandic airspace
Five Czech Gripen fighter jets are flying to Iceland on Friday as the Czech Army prepares to take over surveillance of Icelandic airspace. Over the next nine weeks Czech aircraft and a contingent of 75 soldiers will be primarily responsible for Iceland’s air defence, the only NATO member state with no air force of its own.
“That is the way the NATO alliance works. There is a division of tasks according to capacity and we are able to provide air surveillance. Our Gripen fighter jets are ideal for this purpose. Also, this mission is a great training exercise for our air force. We have twice protected the air space of the Baltic States, and the surveillance mission over Iceland will allow the force to test its capability in harsh northern conditions. It is one of the few opportunities Czech pilots have to undertake flights over the sea.”
The fighter jets, which were given a protective layering to withstand the harsh climate, will for the first time be refuelling in the air over the Atlantic with the help of an Italian Boeing 767. Thursday’s scheduled flight to Iceland had to be postponed by 24 hours because bad weather conditions over the Atlantic would have complicated the procedure. Even so, there are stand-by alternatives – an emergency landing in Scotland or Norway would enable them to reach their destination – Iceland’s Keflavik Air base without great delay. The flight from Čáslav Airbase to Keflavik should take an estimated four and a half hours.
The nine-week mission is expected to cost an estimated 33 million crowns and according to a stable agreement on the air-policing of its territory Iceland will cover the bulk of the expense.