The US Air Force intends to spend ISK 7 billion ($56.2 million/€49.5 million) on construction projects at Keflavík airport, RÚV reports. The purpose behind this construction is, according to the US military, to ensure that two flight squadrons of 18 to 24 fighter jets each could be accommodated at the airport 24 hours a day.
According to the US Air Force’s 2020 budget, roughly ISK 2.2 billion ($18 million/€15.8 million) will go toward the development of a special area for the handling of dangerous cargo, such as weaponry, ISK 871.2 million ($7 million/€6.2 million) will go towards the construction of a portable military facility, and ISK 3.98 billion ($32 million/€28.1 million) will go toward laying more tarmac for US military use.
At the same time that the US government will be embarking on its own defense construction projects at the airport, the Icelandic government will also be reinforcing NATO facilities at Keflavík as well. Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says that these so-called “defense structures” are vital to Iceland’s security, particularly flight security, making investment in NATO maintenance “a priority.”
On Thursday, Alþingi agreed to transfer ISK 300 million ($2.4 million/€2.1 million) of its agreed-upon funds to go towards the development and maintenance of NATO facilities at Keflavík airport. Two Left-Green MPs, Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir and Andrés Ingi Jónsson, abstained from the proceedings. “This was, above all, a way to show our dissatisfaction with this decision,” remarked Andrés Ingi.
Andrés Ingi also pointed out that there has been an increased military presence in Iceland of late. “These are projects that have been in the pipeline for a while and NATO preparedness [initiatives] at the airport have increased a great deal in recent years – there have been soldiers in the dozens there every single day for the last three years.”
“And then,” continued Andrés Ingi, “in order to do submarine surveillance flights, the American military wants to build up facilities and this has clearly lead to the Icelandic government contributing money as well, in order to improve these facilities. And I think that with this, we’ve gotten one step too close to having a military base here again.”