US fighters deployed to Iceland and the Netherlands, demonstrating its commitment to a free and secure Europe as well as approximately 350 airmen. The move is as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR), the Pentagon’s demonstration of force designed to deter what it calls Russian aggression against Europe.
US F-15 fighters from the 131st Fighter Squadron at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts and the 194th Fighter Squadron at Fresno Air National Guard Base in California will support NATO air surveillance missions in Iceland and conduct flying training in the Netherlands, according to Daily Mail. The F-15s are not the only package of American fighters being sent to Europe in an effort to deter further Russian aggression in the region.
In February, the U.S. said it will send six F-15s to Finland as part of OAR, which the United States initiated in 2014 to reassure NATO allies after Russian military intervention in Ukraine. These aircraft are scheduled to deploy next month.
Iceland is the only NATO member that has no military of its own, although it has a small coast guard force. The country used to host a US airbase during the Cold War, but it was shut down in 2006. Two years later US warplanes started paroling Iceland’s airspace.
The U.S. used to have an air base in Iceland during the Cold War when Iceland sat at a key strategic location in the middle of the Atlantic. But that base was closed in 2006.
While NATO has maintained air control over Iceland since 2008, their defenses have been unable to stop Russia from reportedly making air incursions into Icelandic airspace.
The F-15s are part of the U.S.’s Theater Security Packages, a rotational force used to augment existing Air Force capabilities in Europe, according to the Air Force.
“Russia’s increased patrols with fighters, bombers and submarines in the North Atlantic have brought new attention to the region and the need for NATO to have a presence there as well,” said Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative Atlantic Council.
Tensions between the West and Russia have increased in recent years, in large part because of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists elsewhere in eastern Ukraine. The aircraft are scheduled to remain in Europe through September.
The US argues that such deployment is necessary to deter Russia from military aggression. Moscow says Western hawks are simply using the perceived Russian threat to justify greater military spending.