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United States Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF) is a former NATOmarker facility at Keflavík International Airportmarker, Icelandmarker. It was located on the Reykjanesmarker peninsula on the south-west portion of the island. NASKEF was closed on September 8, 2006.


NASKEF was the host Command for NATO in Iceland. The major commands stationed on the base were Naval Air Station Keflavik, the United States Air Force's 85th Group, Fleet Air Keflavik, the Iceland Defense Force (NATO), NCTS Keflavik, and U.S. Naval Hospital Keflavik.

The primary mission of Naval Air Station Keflavik was 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.


World War II

After gaining independence from Denmarkmarker 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 Lufthansamarker'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 Norwaymarker in April 1940 also was turned down in accordance with the neutrality policy. Nevertheless the British government felt that it could not do without bases in Iceland and on May 10, 1940 the people of Reykjavíkmarker awoke to the sight of a British invasion force. The government of Iceland protested the invasion but asked the populace to treat the occupying force as guests.

Following talks between British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Iceland agreed to a tripartite treaty under which United States Marines were to relieve the British garrison in Iceland on the condition that all military forces be withdrawn from Iceland immediately upon the conclusion of the war in Europe.

In addition to their defense role, US forces constructed the Keflavik Airportmarker as a refueling point for aircraft deliveries and cargo flights to Europe. The host American military unit at Keflavík Airport were:

  • 824th Engineering Battalion (Aviation) (February 1942 – August 28, 1943)
  • 342d Composite Group (September 11, 1942 – March 18, 1944)
  • 14th Det, North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command (August 28, 1943 – August 1, 1944)
  • 1386th Army Air Force Base Unit (August 1, 1944 – February 18, 1946)
  • Iceland Base Command (February 18, 1946 – March 24, 1947)

The first runway was completed during September 1942, and by the spring of 1943 the airport became fully operational. All major construction, including four runways were completed by July 1943. During its wartime use, the airfield served as refueling stopover for two-and four-engine aircraft on flights between the US and the UK. At the peak of the Second World War, thousands of troops were stationed at Keflavík in temporary Quonset hut camps.

The USAAF 342d Composite Group intercepted and destroyed some of the German planes that on occasion attempted to attack Iceland or that appeared in that area on reconnaissance missions. The unit also conducted antisubmarine patrols in the North Atlanticmarker and provided cover for convoys on the run to Murmanskmarker, Soviet Unionmarker.

With the end of the war in Europe, Keflavik Airport became a transit point for aircraft returning from the European Theater of Operations to the United States. With American air activities greatly reduced in Europe in the immediate postwar months, U.S. flying operations were similarly reduced in preparation for transfer of the base to the Icelandic government at the end of 1946. With all noncritical surplus equipment and supplies disposed of, all U.S. air activity ended at the airfield on March 11, 1947.

Cold War

Another agreement signed between the United States and Iceland in 1946 permitted continued use of the base by the United States. The United States provided all the maintenance and operation of the airport through an American civilian contractor. American Overseas Airlines, followed by Airport Overseas Corporation personnel, operated the military portion of Keflavik Airport after its reversion to Icelandic control at the end of March 1947.

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 peacetime. However with the developing Cold War with the Soviet Unionmarker, and world tensions increasing, Iceland's leaders reconsidered. 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. Over the next four decades, the Defense Force was "at the front" of the Cold War and was credited with playing a significant role in deterrence.

On May 25, 1951 the United States Air Force reestablished a presence at Keflavik Airport with the establishment of the 1400th Air Base Group. The 1400th ABG would be the host USAF unit at Keflavik until the facility was turned over to the Navy in 1961. Operation of the airport was assumed by Military Air Transport Service (MATS).

During 1947–51, while the base was operated by a US civilian contractor company most of the World War II temporary structures were left empty and became badly deteriorated. The airfield complex, one of the largest in the world during the war, also required upgrading to accommodate modern aircraft. The contractor 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 insufficient 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.
57th FIS F-4Es intercepting a Soviet Tu-95 Bear D in 1980.
The United States Navy assumed the responsibility of running the air station from the US Air Force in 1961. The Air Defense Command (ADC), later renamed Aerospace Defense Command's Air Forces Iceland (AFI) then became a tenant organization at the airfield using the facility for air surveillance of Iceland and the North Atlantic, employing F-102 Delta Dagger and then F-4C Phantom II fighters as interceptors. Over 1,000 intercepts of Soviet aircraft took place inside Iceland's Military Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

On October 1, 1979 Tactical Air Command (TAC) absorbed ADC's assets, and the F-4E Phantom II aircraft of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (57 FIS). In July 1985, F-15Cs and F-15Ds replaced the aging F-4s, and the tail code "IS" was assigned to Air Forces Iceland (AFI).

During the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, Keflavik also hosted rotational E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from CONUS to support the air defense mission and rotational HC-130 Hercules aircraft from RAF Woodbridgemarker from the 67 Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) to support their detachment of Keflavik-based HH-3 Jolly Green Giant and later HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in their search and rescue mission.

On June 1, 1992, Air Combat Command (ACC) assumed command and control of AFI and the 57 FIS. Less than a year later, the 57 FIS was redesignated as the 57 Fighter Squadron (57 FS) and reassigned to the 35th Wing (35 WG) that was transferred from the closing George AFBmarker, Californiamarker.

On October 1, 1994, the 35th Wing was inactivated at Keflavik and reactivated that same day at Misawa Air Basemarker in Misawa, Japanmarker as the 35th Fighter Wing, where it currently operates. The 35th Wing was replaced by the newly-activated 85th Wing. On March 1, 1995, the 57th FS was deactivated and the interceptor force was replaced by Regular Air Force and Air National Guard F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft rotating every 90 days to Iceland until the USAF deactivated the 85th Group in 2002. United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) took over ACC responsibilities at Keflavik on October 1, 2002 as part of a larger restructuring of the unified commands.

NAS Keflavik was the host command for the NATO Base in Iceland. There were more than 25 different commands of various sizes and personnel from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corpss, U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard in Iceland. Also present were representatives from Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. One of the largest commands was Naval Air Station (NAS) Keflavik, which was responsible for providing all support facilities, including the runways, housing, supply and recreational facilities.

The primary mission of Naval Air Station Keflavik was 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.

U.S. Navy use of the facility allowed the housing of rotational P-3 Orion squadrons, aircraft, flight crews, maintenance and administrative support personnel from their CONUS home bases for six-month deployments in support of antisubmarine warfare and maritime patrol missions until 2004. As a NATO mission, the U.S. Navy P-3s were frequently augmented by U.S. Navy Reserve P-3 squadrons and detachments of Canadian Forces CP-140 Aurora, Royal Netherlands Navy P-3, German Navy Breguet Atlantique and Royal Air Force Hawker Siddeley Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.

Army National Guard units and Interim Marine Security Forces stormed the lava fields surrounding the base during training exercises such as Northern Viking.

NAS Keflavik employed approximately 900 Icelandic civilians who worked with military personnel, providing the services necessary to operate the base. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the airfield was 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 NATO base did not have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Icelandic Government and the base lacked the roadway entrance security gates characteristic of most military installations, having only Icelandic Customs officials instead. Icelandic nationals had unrestricted access to most of the base, only being barred from actual security-restricted military facilities such as aircraft parking areas, squadron and hangar facilities and classified operations centers. During the height of the Cold War, this access situation created definitive operational security (OPSEC) concerns by U.S. and NATO officials due to potential espionage activities by Soviet operatives masquerading as Icelandic nationals. In addition, during this same time period, the former Soviet Unionmarker constructed one of their largest embassy facilities in the nearby capital, Reykavik, which doubled as a diplomatic cover for intelligence collection activities against U.S. and NATO military forces.

The base offered a wide variety of recreational services which included bowling, swimming, gymnasium, theater, social clubs, a Wendy's restaurant, and hobby centers. Other services included a base exchange, commissary, bank, hospital, beauty shop, tour office and morale flights. Golfing was available in a nearby community.

The American base staff had their own names for various places in Iceland, e.g. "Kef" for Keflavíkmarker and "Hurdygurdy" for Hveragerðimarker.


The flag of Iceland being raised and the flag of the US being lowered as the US hands over the Naval Air Station to the Government of Iceland
57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (The Black Knights) Patch
On March 15, 2006, the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland announced that the United States had decided to substantially reduce the size of the Iceland Defense Force.

During a six-month transition to reduce the military presence in Iceland, most facilities closed and most of the service members departed, leaving behind a core team of active duty and Reserve personnel to finish the job.

By mid-July 2006, many of the military spouses and part-time military active duty staff had transferred.

On September 8, 2006, NASKEF's last commanding officer, CAPT Mark S. Laughton, presided over a ceremony effecting the disestablishment of the air station. [235017]( Gone since September 30, 2006)

On October 26 the government of Iceland established the Keflavik Airport Development Corporation or Kadeco which was given the task of converting the base into civilian use.

USAAF/USAF organizational history


Defense Returned to Icelandic control April 7, 1947
  • Defense Returned to joint Icelandic-USAF control, May 23, 1951
Redesignated: Iceland Air Defense Force, January 15, 1954
Redesignated: Air Forces Iceland, January 1, 1960
: Became tenant organization to United States Naval Forces, Iceland
Inactivated June 28, 2006


  • Iceland Base Command, February 1942
  • Eastern Defense Command, United States Army, July 30, 1944
  • Air Transport Command, January 1, 1946 – April 7, 1947
  • Joint Task Force #109, May 7, 1951
  • Iceland Defense Force, July 6, 1951
  • Military Air Transport Service, September 1, 1951
65th Air Division, April 24, 1952 – March 8, 1954
64th Air Division, July 1, 1962
26th Air Division, July 1, 1963
: Goose Air Defense Sector, September 4, 1963
37th Air Division, April 1, 1966
21st Air Division, December 31, 1969
First Air Force, December 6, 1985 – May 31, 1993
Eighth Air Force, October 1, 1994
Third Air Force, October 1, 2002
48th Fighter Wing, October 8, 2004 – June 28, 2006

Major components

Lockheed P-38F-5-LO Lightning 42-12596 of the 50th Fighter Squadron in Iceland, 1942
North American P-51D-25-NA Mustang AF Serial No.
44-73822 of the 192d Fighter Bomber Squadron at Keflavik, 1952
57th FIS F-102s escorting a Soviet Tu-95K "Bear-B" cruise missile carrying bomber inside Iceland's Military Air Defense Identification Zone.
The aircraft in forgeround, Convair F-102A-75-CO Delta Dagger AF Serial No.
56-1321 crashed into sea from Keflavik on January 22, 1973
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-34-MC Phantom AF Serial No.
Note the ADC grey color without tail coding with TAC emblem.
Following its USAF service, this aircraft was transferred to the Republic of Korea on September 13, 1985
McDonnell Douglas F-15C-28-MC Eagle AF Serial No.
80-0035 of the 57th FIS
33d Fighter Squadron , (P-39D, P-40C/K, P-47D)
50th Fighter Squadron, (P-38F)
337th Fighter Squadron, (September 11 – November 26, 1942)
  • 1386th Army Air Force Base Unit, August 1, 1944 – March 1, 1946
  • Iceland Base Command, February 18, 1946 – March 24, 1947

The 342d Composite Group served as part of the island's defense force, intercepting and destroying some of the German planes that on occasion attempted to attack Iceland or that appeared in that area on reconnaissance missions. Also conducted antisubmarine patrols in the North Atlantic and provided cover for convoys on the run to Murmansk. Disbanded on March 18, 1944.

Defense returned to Icelandic control on March 24, 1947. Defense returned to joint Icelandic-USAF control on May 23, 1951.

  • 1400th Air Base Group, May 23, 1951 – July 1, 1960
  • 131st Fighter-Bomber Group (TAC)
Federalized Missourimarker Air National Guard
92d Fighter-Bomber Squadron, September 1, 1952 – December 1, 1952 (F-51D/H)
  • 932d Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron (ADC), October 1, 1952 – August 1, 1957
  • 479th Fighter-Bomber Group (TAC)
Deployed from George AFBmarker, Californiamarker
435th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, December 1, 1952 – March 27, 1953 (F-51D/H)
436th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, December 1, 1952 – December 2, 1953 (F-51D/H)
82d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (ADC), April 1, 1953 – October 22, 1954 (F-94B)
57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron*, November 12, 1954 – 2006
: Military Air Transport Service, 1954–1962, F-89D Scorpion (only Fighter Intercepter Squadron in MATS)
: Air/Aerospace Defense Command, 1962–1973, F-102A/B Delta Dagger
: Aerospace Defense Command, 1973–1979, McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II
: Tactical Air Command, October 1, 1979 – December 6, 1985, McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II
: Tactical Air Command, December 6, 1985 – June 1, 1992, McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle
: Air Combat Command
:: Assigned to: 35th Wing, June 1, 1992 – October 1, 2002, McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle
: United States Air Forces in Europe**
:: Assigned to: 86th Airlift Wing, October 1, 2002 – October 8, 2004, McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle
:: Assigned to: 48th Fighter Wing, October 8, 2004 – June 28, 2006, McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle

  • * Aircraft of the 57th FIS (1954–1994) carried a black/white check tail fin flash. Aircraft also carried tail code "IS" (1979–1994). * ** No permanent aircraft assigned. Squadron equipped by attached F-15 aircraft deployed from ACC, ANG and USAFE units for 90-day deployments. Squadron was also assigned 5 Sikorsky HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters (1994–2006).

See also


  • Baugher, Joe. USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present. USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • Donald, David, "Century Jets - USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War".
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
  • Fletcher, Harry R., Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Hill, Mike and Campbell, John, Tactical Air Command - An Illustrated History 1946–1992, 2001
  • Martin, Patrick, Tail Code: The Complete History Of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings, 1994
  • Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units Of World War II, Office of Air Force History, 1983
  • Rogers, Brian, United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978, 2005
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Official Navy disestablishment press release

External links

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