Rapid Viking over Iceland

10th August 2023 marked conclusion of German Air Force ´lean and mean´ exercise over Iceland. For two weeks, six Eurofighters from the 73rd Tactical Air Wing were deployed to Keflavik Air Base within a training activity codenamed Rapid Viking 2023.

The exercise was aimed to demonstrate the Luftwaffe capability to execute a quick deployment to a remote and forward air base, and then to be able to perform a series of usual practice tasks while operating from that location.

Six Eurofighter EF-2000 fighters and approximately thirty military personnel deployed to Iceland were from the 73rd Tactical Air Wing in Rostock-Laage air base (Taktische Luftwaffengeschwader 73 ´Steinhoff´ – TaktLwG 73 „S“). During the Icelandic mission, they were supported by two Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters that secured personnel transport and supply deliveries to Keflavik.

According to the official statement of the Bundeswehr, the German Air Force aims to be able to execute ´the first responder´ missions – quick transfer of small force to a remote area at supersonic speed and with the fewest personnel and cargo as only possible.

The statement points out that usual air force deployment needs at least one week of preparations to forward a usual load of 130 to 150 tons of necessary cargo. During the Rapid Viking exercise that amount was reduced to just 25 tons and preparation time was shortened to two days.

Airbus A400M Atlas, Luftwaffe

Iceland is the only NATO member that has no standing armed forces. Everyday tasks of patrolling the waters and airspace are performed by the Icelandic Coast Guard, with additional support provided by the country´s Special Forces Unit.

Nevertheless, the country is an active member of the Alliance and hosts several NATO sea and air exercises each year. Submarine hunt and tactical recovery training codenamed Northern Viking 2022 is one of the examples. The exercise was held in April of last year and involved the Icelandic Coast Guard and naval forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Portugal and Norway.

On daily basis the Icelandic airspace is being protected by consistent deployment of the NATO air forces. The Icelandic Air Policing, as the operation was officially named, began in May of 2008 and was performed by rotating contingents coming from Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal and the United States. In January of 2013, the air policing mission was officially renamed as ´Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs´, however the previous name is still being commonly used.

Cover photo: Eurofighter EF-2000, Luftwaffe. Information from the NATO press materials were used.