SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
With alarms blaring and engines roaring, Airmen and pilots only use hand signals to communicate while pilots settle into their jets with little time before takeoff.
During Icelandic Air Surveillance 2019, Airmen from the 480th Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, worked to establish air surveillance and interception coverage over Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, in order to maintain the integrity of the NATO airspace.
“This mission is a commitment to enhancing regional security,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dominic Collins, 480th Fighter Squadron IAS 2019 mission commander. “The U.S. routinely trains with its European counterparts, and has been participating in this IAS mission since 2008, conducting missions with our NATO allies demonstrates our shared commitment to peace and better prepares us to respond to a range of potential security and humanitarian emergencies we may face in the future.”
IAS 2019 mission’s primary focus was pilots doing scramble alerts and getting their flying certifications for intercept missions. Scramble alerts were used to test the amount of time it would take pilots to get from ground to air.
Pilots spent many hours going over launch processes and preparing for takeoffs, said Collins. Without this certification, the mission could not be completed.
“Certification means that we have proven that we can respond to an alert call within minutes,” said Collins. “We can quickly have air power in the sky to respond to real or potential threats, it’s a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our crew here in Iceland.”
It takes more than a pilot’s dedication and skill for an aircraft to make it into the air. A huge part of the process is the trust between the pilots and the Airmen who maintain the aircraft. Their job is to make sure the pilot has all they need to succeed in the mission.
“It is important that the pilot and crew chiefs are on the same page,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Delia O’Toole, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “It is important that I have confidence in my pilot and rely on him to do the checks necessary to help us both flourish and it is imperative that the pilot has faith in me and believes that I will do my job to the best of my ability making sure he and his aircraft are safe.”
Takeoffs during IAS 2019 are different than a normal takeoff process at Spangdahlem Air Base. In a normal process, crew chiefs can communicate with the pilot through headsets, both the pilot and crew chiefs have a longer time for aircraft checks and takeoffs, and the whole process is much more relaxed.
“The process here in Iceland has you on edge from when the alarm goes off, notifying us of a scramble alert, until the pilot is off into the air,” said O’Toole. “Everything is moving at super speed, but it is important to stay calm and get it done and done in the right way.”
Overall, IAS 2019 was a chance for Airmen to hone their skills and make the U.S. Air Force a stronger, more effective force for possible future situations we may face and it provided training opportunities for all those involved.
“Missions such as IAS help Airmen maintain currency and training requirements essential to readiness standards,” said Collins. “Therefore I think this mission has nothing but good impact on all who are participating.
“We absolutely could not perform at the high level of readiness, or provide the level of air power without the unwavering support of the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Icelandic leadership who are hosting us,” Collins continued. “We work closely together every day and we are constantly learning and improving by using their extensive experience in northern latitude operations. The level of cooperation between us, NATO, and Iceland really reflects the common understanding that maintaining NATO fighter aircraft at Keflavik helps keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure.”