Icelandic defense exercise kicks off

Leaders from the United States and Iceland joined partners from NATO Aug.13, to kick off an exercise designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the 1951 bilateral U.S./Iceland defense agreement.

Iceland, which does not have a military force, depends on the United States for its defense needs under the 1951 agreement signed by both nations. NATO and the United States continue to abide by their long-standing commitment to defend Iceland if it comes under attack. Iceland is also a 1949 signatory to the original NATO Treaty.

Exercise Northern Viking 2007 provided a basis for continued U.S. presence and is hoped to be an annual event. The exercise also pointed out the critical nature of the Icelandic Air Defense System to NATO’s control and security of air space, said Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

“This exercise is an integral part of the efforts by the United States and other NATO Allies to work with Iceland to modernize its defense strategy to meet the threats of the 21st century,” said General Hobbins.

General Hobbins was joined by Iceland Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde during the opening ceremonies of the event. Prime Minister Haarde said that exercises like Northern Viking are important for the future of Iceland’s defense.

“I look forward to successful exercises under Northern Viking this year,” he said. “This will contribute to the security of Iceland and Alliance as a whole.”
Nearly 200 USAFE Airmen from Ramstein, Lakenheath and Mildenhall joined forces from Iceland, Norway, Denmark and NATO.

 A separate, but simultaneous anti-terrorist piece of the exercise included special forces from Latvia, Iceland police and Icelandic Ministry of Defense personnel.

 The exercise trained aircrews from participating nations in the conduct of air operations designed to protect Iceland from airborne threats. 

NATO partners worked together to locate and identify unknown aircraft to determine if it was a threat and if necessary, scramble aircraft to deal with the situation, said General Hobbins.

Northern Viking 2007 was the first exercise involving the U.S. Air Force since the closure of Naval Air Station Keflavik in October 2006.

 Advances in technology and information sharing allow the United States to exercise more efficiently and with fewer resources than in the past and still demonstrate U.S. commitment as well as combined capabilities. 

Exercise costs were reduced considerably due to Iceland’s support of aircraft and personnel with significant logistical contributions, said General Hobbins.
 (Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe)