We have monitored the flights of the Russian air force, but we had not to react to it, the commander of the Czech fliers taking part in the Icelandic Air Policing mission said.
More than one hundred takeoffs from the Keflavik Air Base have been accomplished by the Czech pilots of the 211th tactical squadron based in Čáslav, Central Bohemia. With their four fighter aircrafts JAS-39 Gripen, they have guarded the airspace over Iceland, their NATO ally.
Last week, their two-month mission has come to the end.
„Iceland is a wonderful country but we had, of course, no time to enjoy the magic of the island,“ the commander of the Czech mission Martin Nezbeda said in an interview with the Aktuálně.cz daily. „The smallest deviation or shortcomings and lack of concentration could be fatal,“ he stressed.
In the Czech mission in Iceland, seventy-five military personnel, including eight pilots have taken part.
„Iceland is a country with many volcanoes, thermal geysers, lava flows on the one side and large glaciers on the other side,“ Nezbeda added. „But we were well-prepared for such conditions and circumstances. We are undergoing training for such extreme environment all throughout the year.“
The Czech pilots have received information about the enhanced activity of the Russian military aircrafts in the region, but, according to Nezbeda, there was no need for takeoff to react to it during their mission because the Russians have been flying outside of the Icelandic airspace or above the international waters.
Czech Gripens have guarded the airspace over Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia twice in 2009 and 2012. Nezbeda has admitted that there are large differences between Icelandic and Baltic states‘s countryside, but the mission in Iceland has been accomplished without any single problem.
If one of the pilots has to catapult himself to safety during the flight over the sea, it would represent a more difficult situation than in the Czech Republic, for example, Nezbeda conceded, but, according to his words, the Icelandic coast guard would be alarmed immediately in such a case.
The Czech Republic has to its disposal fourteen Gripens and, if four of them (and one backup aircraft) take part in a mission like this, it means a heavy burden for the rest of the squadron in Čáslav where the pilots have to perform their daily tasks without their colleagues.