Two American B2 Stealth Bombers flew over Iceland earlier this week alongside supporting fighter jets from the UK and Norway, Business Insider reports. The March 16 fly-over occurred six months after the US’s B2A Spirit made its first flight to Iceland and is viewed as evidence of “the increasing attention that the US and its partners are paying to the region.”
Iceland’s location midway between North America and Europe and right in the middle of an increasingly traversable Arctic trade route means that it is of tactical and economic interest to many nations and international bodies such as NATO. Reporting on this week’s deployment, the Norwegian newspaper The Barents Observer referred to the region as “a naval chokepoint, important for the Russian navy in case of a conflict.” Norwegian naval forces have spent the last few years running drills “aimed at protecting the strategic important ballistic missile subs sailing the Barents Sea and the Arctic in case of an escalating global conflict” and view training with NATO allies in the region as a priority.
The US’s B2s were taking part in a Bomber Task Force Europe 20-2 deployment and departed from RAF Fairford in the UK. Their support aircraft, British F-15C Eagles and Norwegian F-35 Lightning IIs, took off from RAF Fairford in the UK and Keflavík respectively. “Norway’s F-35s are in Iceland as part of what NATO calls its Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities,” reported Business Insider, “to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs mission, which started after the US withdrew from the island in 2008.”
The Norwegian fighters landed in Iceland on February 19 and brought 130 military and civilian personnel to work with the Icelandic Coast Guard during their three-week deployment.