Military


Naval Air Station Keflavik

Naval Air Station (NAS) Keflavik, Iceland disestablished during a ceremony officially ending its 45 years of operations in support of the defense of Iceland. Over one hundred Sailors attended the event, representing a majority of the forces that remain of a population that once exceeded 5,000 military and civilian personnel and family members. Special guests included U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, the Honorable Carol Van Voorst and special envoy for Iceland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Thorsteinn Ingolfsson.

In the height of the Cold War, this was the place to be to protect against Soviet submarines. And we were successful and the NASKEF team had a great deal to do with that," Preston said. "Now the world has changed and we are facing a war on terrorism. We are changing how we plan and prepare for this war. But what will not change is our friendship and partnership with Iceland."

The United States has had a military presence in Iceland since 1941, and a formal defense agreement with that nation since 1951. The Navy assumed the responsibility of running the air station from the US Air Force in 1961. The base acted as a platform for several operational capabilities throughout World War II, the Cold War and in the modern arena. The hangar housed rotational P-3 Orion aircraft and crews in support of anti-submarine warfare until 2004. The Army National Guard units and Interim Marine Security Forces stormed the lava fields surrounding the base during training exercises such as Northern Viking. The flight line served as a launching point for US Air Force F-15 fighters.

During a six-month transition to reduce the military presence in Iceland, most facilities had closed and most of the service members had gone, leaving behind a core team of active duty and Reserve personnel to finish the job. As the final push toward the 30 September 2006 deadline continued, perhaps no organization worked harder than the base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Department. MWR operated over 20 facilities and programs here with a staff of 320 when the base transition was announced in March 2006. By mid-July 2006 many of the military spouses and part-time military active duty staff had transferred. By the first week of September 2006, MWR had less than 50 workers to operate the remaining five concessions.

The primary mission of Naval Air Station Keflavik is to maintain and operate facilities and provide services and material to support operations of aviation activities and units of the operating forces of the Navy and other activities and units, as designated by the Chief of Naval Operations.

NAS Keflavik is the host Command for the NATO Base in Iceland. The base is located on the Reykjanes peninsula on the south-west portion of the island. There are more than 25 different commands of various sizes and personnel from the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army in Iceland. Also present are representatives from Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. One of the largest commands is Naval Air Station (NAS) Keflavik, which is responsible for providing all support facilities, including the runways, housing, supply and recreational facilities to name a few. NAS Keflavik employs approximately 900 Icelandic civilians who work with military personnel to provide the services necessary to operate the base. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the airfield is available for maritime patrol activities, air defense and for transiting aircraft between North America and Europe, in addition to supporting Iceland's international civilian aviation.

The US Air Force has about 2,000 active-duty airmen stationed with the 85th Group at Naval Air Station Keflavik. The air defense mission is carried out by F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft rotating every 90 days to Iceland. Using four ground-based radars and occasionally AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, the 85th Group's 932nd Air Control Squadron provides air surveillance of Iceland and the North Atlantic.

The NATO base does not have a Status of Forces Agreement with the Icelandic Government. The base offers a wide variety of recreational services to include bowling, swimming, gymnasium, theater, social clubs, Wendy's restaurant, and hobby centers. Other services include a base exchange, commissary, bank, hospital, beauty shop, tour office and morale flights. Golfing is available in a nearby community.

The U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Iceland (NCTSI) is a link in the Defense Communications System (DCS) supporting the rapid dissemination of information products throughout the U.S. Navy and supported commands and agencies. NCTSI is a Class I, Echelon 4, Shore (Field) activity in an active status, under a commanding officer located onboard Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF). Over which U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) exercises administrative control and Commander Fleet Air Keflavik (COMFAIRKEF) exercise operational control through additional duty assignment of the commanding officer.

On 01 July 1961, the U.S. Naval Communication Station, (NAVCOMMSTA) Iceland was established and assumed most of the island's military communications requirements from the Airways and Air Communications Service Squadron (AACS/MATS). The NAVCOMMSTA's responsibilities were wide-ranging with personnel assigned to operate communications equipment at a variety of remote sites: Inter-Island TROPO site at H-1; DYE-5 Transceiver site; transceiver sites at H-2 and H-3, the Special Communications (SPECOMM) at H-2; and Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) Grindavik. In 1968 the Receiver Site was relocated from the Garrity building, which had served as a receiver site since 1948, to the Inter-Island TROPO site at H-1.

On 9 May 1989, the Government of Iceland approved the construction of a new communications facility onboard NAS Keflavik. The basic scope of the project was to include: a survivable, semi-hardened structure; 100% stand-by auto start power by dual 900KW diesel electric generators and UPS; multi-path HF, EHF/UHF SATCOM, and terrestrial communications systems; state-of-the-art physical security systems; independent seven-day capacity for drinking water and sewage disposal so the building could be operated in a "buttoned-up " configuration; CBR air locks/decontamination space; and survivable communications connectivity with associated facilities. Construction began in 1993 with NATO providing approximately 65% of the funding. The new building, the NATO Communications Center, was dedicated on 19 December 1996.

An initial permanent T-1 connectivity (provided through a commercial lease with G.E. AMERICOM) between Chesapeake, Virginia and Keflavik Iceland was established in 1992. The current long distance connectivity is via three T-1s and transoceanic cable.

In late 1991, the Naval Communication Station was redesignated an U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) to incorporate computers and reflect the changing nature of information technology. On 01 January 1993, the Base Communications Office was officially transferred from NAS Keflavik to the operational and administrative control of NCTS Iceland. This move represented the Navy's continuing effort to centralize base support functions with appropriate service providers within appropriate Host-Tenant relationships.

In early 1998, the NCTSI headquarters building (building 839) underwent a major interior renovation. Commanding Officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) provided approximately $1.2 million to refurbish the majority of the building's interior. On 01 October 1998, the NCTSI Facilities department was transferred to NAS Keflavik as part of the Base Operating Support initiative. From that date, NAS Keflavik as the Host command would be fully responsible for the maintenance of NCTSI facilities.

After receiving independence from Denmark in 1918 with the signing of the 25-year Danish-Icelandic Act of Union, Iceland followed a policy of strict neutrality. In 1939, with war imminent in Europe, the German Reich pressed for landing rights for Lufthansa's aircraft for alleged trans-Atlantic flights. The Icelandic government turned them down. A British request to establish bases in Iceland for the protection of the vital North Atlantic supply lines after German forces occupied Denmark and Norway in April 1940 also was turned down in accordance with the neutrality policy. Therefore, it was a rude surprise for the people of Reykjavík to awaken to the sight of a British invasion force on May 10, 1940. The country's strategic importance to the British was understood; what was annoying to Icelanders was the lack of consultation. Iceland protested the use of military force by Britain but immediately accepted the fait accompli. Following talks between British Prime Minster Winston S. Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Iceland agreed to a tri-partite treaty under which the United States was to relieve the British garrison in Iceland on the condition that all military forces be withdrawn from Iceland immediately upon the conclusion of the war in Europe.

At the peak of the Second World War, thousands of troops were stationed at Keflavík in temporary Quonset huts camps. Iceland became a charter member of NATO, but with the understanding that this commitment would neither require the establishment of its own armed forces -- for which there were no available resources -- nor the basing of foreign forces on its soil in peacetime. During 1947-51, while the base was operated by a US civilian contractor company (Lockheed Aircraft Overseas Service) as an international airport, most of these temporary structures were salvaged or badly deteriorated.

The airfield complex, one of the largest in the world during World War II, also required upgrading to accommodate modern aircraft. The contractor company had extended one runway, constructed a new passenger terminal and hotel building, one aircraft hangar, a hospital, housing units and other facilities for the staff. But this was not sufficient for the new Defense Force, so additional facilities had to be provided quickly. A crash reconstruction program was initiated and temporary housing was erected during the construction of permanent housing. The airfield was extended and two new aircraft hangars were constructed. Most of this work was completed by 1957.

A US contractor company undertook this project using Icelandic subcontractors at first. Later, as the Icelandic contractors acquired the experience and know-how required for military construction, it was agreed that the work would be assumed completely by Icelanders with the formation of the Iceland Prime Contractors (IPC) in 1954 and the Keflavík Contractors (KC) in 1957. These contractor companies operate under a single source arrangement with allocation of new construction projects to IPC and most major maintenance projects undertaken by KC. Construction projects have centered on modernization of the military facilities, and expanded and improved housing and living conditions for Defense Force members and their families to lessen the impact on the local community.

The major commands stationed on the base are Naval Air Station Keflavik, the Air Forces 85th group, Commander Fleet Air Keflavik, Commander Iceland Defense Force, NCTS Keflavik, Naval Hospital Keflavik, and the Marine Corp Security Force Company Keflavik. There are also about 900 Icelandic civilians working in close coordination with duty members.

The first US Military involvement in Iceland dates back to 1941, when Marines arrived after an agreement between the governments of Iceland, Great Britain and the United States. The forces were replacements for the British garrison that was stationed in Iceland after the British occupation in May of the previous year. In addition to their defense role, US forces constructed the Keflavik Airport as a refueling point for aircraft deliveries and cargo flights to Europe. Following World War II, all military personnel were withdrawn from the country as specified in the original agreement.

Another agreement signed between the United States and Iceland in 1946 permitted continued use of occupation forces in Europe. The United States provided all the maintenance and operation of the airport through an American civilian contractor.

Iceland´s charter membership in NATO in 1949 required neither the establishment of an Icelandic armed force, nor the stationing of foreign troops in the country during peace time. However, the Cold War with the Soviet Union and growing world tensions caused Iceland´s leaders to think otherwise. Icelandic officials decided that membership in the NATO alliance was not a sufficient defense and, at the request of NATO, entered into a defense agreement with the United States. This was the beginning of the Iceland Defense Force. During the past four decades, the Defense Force was "at the front" of the Cold War and was credited with playing a significant role in deterrence.

Iceland, is the second-largest island in Europe, measuring 39,000 square miles in area and is crossed by the Arctic Circle at it's northernmost point. The landscape is characterized by mountains, with uninhabited and rugged interior highlands. On the north and east coast there are sharp and deep fjords,while on the south there are plains and sands. Iceland is a beautiful, unspoiled country. The landmass is referred to by many as the land of "ICE and FIRE". Born from the sea by volcanic forces around 18-20 million years ago, Iceland is the youngest country in the world. Iceland is a Volcanic Island, it's forces are still very active, with an eruption in progress somewhere in the country for one out of every five years during the historical period. It's most famous volcano, Mount Hekla, is still active and has erupted three times in the last 20 years, once in 1970, once in 1980 and again in 1991.

Thirteen percent of Iceland is covered with glacial ice, not an impressive number until you realize that Iceland's largest glacier, VATNAJOKULL, is also Europe's largest glacial cap (and the world's third largest). Geothermal activity is a natural resource that has been put to use in the heating of homes, swimming pools and industries. Due to the number of waterfalls available, hydro-electricity is a main power source.

Only about 10% of Icelanders have surnames or family names. The rest use the system of patronymics, i.e. instead of a surname, the first name of the father is used, with a "son" or "dottir" (son / daughter) added to it. Example would be the children of Leikur would be Einar Leikurson or Helga Leikurdottir. The Icelandic people are addressed by their first names and listed in the telephone directory as such.

The climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream, which results in a maritime climate, with rain, snow, wind, and cloud cover in winter and cool, windy, cloudy summers. Average temperatures range from 32 degrees in January to 51 degrees in July. Rain wear and warm clothing are required including boots, warm coat and head covering. Wind chill makes weather feel severe.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list