Field Study 3 visit to Iceland for Senior Course 140
On 7 June 2022, Senior Course 140 visited Iceland as the first stop on their third Field Study trip. During the day, Course Members had the opportunity to attend comprehensive briefings on the defence and security of the country, visit the NATO Keflavik Air Base and enjoy a field visit on Icelandic soil.
Iceland, one of NATO’s founding members, was the first country visited by the members of the 140th edition of the NDC’s flagship course, the Senior Course, on their third Field Study trip.
The first visit of the day was at the NATO Keflavik Air Base, where the delegation led by NDC Commandant, LGEN Olivier Rittimann, was met by Captain Jón B. Guðnason, Commander of the Air Base. He presented an overview of the various NATO facilities hosted by Iceland and stressed how his country is working every day to improve the support provided to Allied and Partner countries operating from Iceland.
One of the main NATO missions carried out from the island is air surveillance. In this framework, the NDC delegation visited two different compounds within the Keflavik Air Base where different NATO Allies conduct their operations, including air policing missions.
First, the United States Navy side of the base, where the delegation was welcomed on behalf of Commander Task Force 67, Captain Tim Thompson. The briefing given by two US Navy lieutenants was an overview of the capabilities of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The briefers also took questions from the Course Members.
Until the end of June 2022, the NATO Air Policing of the skies in the High North will be led by Italy. Colonel Gianmarco Di Loreto, an Ancien of Senior Course 135, is the Commander of the Italian F-35A Task Force Air in Iceland. He had an office call with LGEN Olivier Rittimann and delivered a classified briefing to some of the NDC leadership on the Task Force’s mission and its daily work. In parallel, Course Members were able to visit the F-35A flightline.
For the second part of the morning, the delegation moved to a building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the focus was on Iceland’s security and defence. The first briefing was delivered by Bryndís Kjartansdóttir, Director General for Security and Defence. During her briefing, she explained how the country’s security and defence are organized, considering that, in the absence of military forces and therefore of a Minister of Defence, those essential tasks fall under the responsibility of the Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. She highlighted the security policy focus areas and briefly described the various international and regional agreements that the nation has entered into in order to ensure its security and defence.
The second briefing was delivered by Arnór Sigurjónsson, Senior Advisor to the Permanent Secretary on Security and Defence. During his address to Course Members, he spoke about the security challenges that Iceland is currently facing. Both sessions were followed by a Q&A period, and the closing remarks were delivered by a Course Member from Committee 1.
The last stop in the morning was the NATO Command and Reporting Centre (CRC), responsible for providing the Alliance with air surveillance.
In the afternoon, the delegation took a scenic tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula, stopping first at “the Bridge Between Continents”, a unique spot where it is possible to see the geological divide between Europe – the Eurasian tectonic plate – and North America – the American tectonic plate. The second stop was a very peculiar lava rock formation on the coast which creates a pool called Brimketill, and the third stop was a geothermal area in Krysuvik. This fascinating tour helped the delegation get a better grasp of the island’s environment, and as such, was deemed to be a very enriching part of the programme.
The day ended with a reception hosted by Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the NDC delegation was welcomed by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of State, Ambassador Anna Jóhannsdóttir.