U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work recently visited Iceland to discuss future operations at Keflavik Air Base with Icelandic officials, Reykjavik Grapevine reports.
“Iceland has become increasingly concerned with the Russian activity,” Work said in an interview with Defense News. “The Russians have long done transit flights where they pass close by Iceland, but they’ve recently made several circumnavigation flights – flying completely around the island nation. As a result, “Iceland is interested in increasing military cooperation.”
The United States has a long relationship with Iceland, and by treaty since 1951 continues to be responsible for the defense of the country. Iceland has no military, but the country’s coast guard fulfills most military missions, and is responsible for maintaining Keflavik as a military installation.
The last U.S. forces left in 2006.
U.S. aircraft occasionally still use the base’s facilities. Two F-16s landed there recently when they experienced mechanical difficulties flying across the Atlantic. A US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft also visited the base over several days in April to assess the feasibility of operating the aircraft at Keflavik, from where P-3 Orions regularly flew missions during and after the Cold War.
Iceland’s Foreign Ministry confirms that the U.S. military has expressed an interest in having the possibility open of returning to Iceland, but underlines that no formal talks between the two nations have started.
Since 2008, Iceland’s air space has been patrolled by NATO allies as part of the Icelandic Air Policing operation. Right now four Danish F-16 are operating out from Keflavik, according to Defense News.