STUTTGART, Germany — The German Air Force kicked off what it called a “lean and mean” operation on Friday to demonstrate its ability to quickly deploy to Iceland as part of a two-week exercise dubbed “Rapid Viking.”
From July 28 through Aug. 10, six German Eurofighters and 30 service members from the Tactical Air Force Squadron 73 “Steinhoff” are deployed to Keflavik Air Base, according to a service statement. Once on site, the squadrons will conduct several daily practice flights.
The Rapid Viking Exercise is an opportunity for the Air Force to demonstrate how it can move to Reykjavik “at supersonic speed,” said Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, the service’s chief of staff.
The Luftwaffe aims to serve as a “first responder,” he noted in the statement. “That is why we are training for a quick transfer with the fewest possible human and material resources, especially in this scenario.”
Two A400M aircraft shipped 25 tons worth of material and the personnel to Iceland. The first plane carried nine pallets plus personnel, while the second plane carried five pallets of material plus a hydraulic test stand.
On average, the air force would require between 130 and 150 tons of material to participate in an exercise, for a value of up to €200 million, said Staff Sergeant Oliver M. That amount of cargo can take up to a week to pack up, including three days just to load the pallets onto the aircraft.
For Rapid Viking, the 25 tons of material, worth about €2 million, took only two days to pack and one hour to load onto the aircraft.
The Luftwaffe was last deployed to Iceland in 2012 as part of a NATO air policing initiative. Iceland is a NATO member, but it does not have its own military. Allies show solidarity to the 375,000 inhabitants by temporarily relocating forces to the island nation.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has prompted Europe’s militaries to reassess the state of their capability inventories as well as their ability to get battle-ready fast. Last October, German air force and naval troops performed a rapid deployment to Estonia, participating in a month-long exercise dubbed “Baltic Tiger” to test how quickly the services could provide reinforcements to allies in need.
Last year, the Luftwaffe also performed its first-ever deployment to the Indo-Pacific, completing its goal of reaching Singapore less than 24 hours after takeoff from Neuburg Air Base, in Bavaria.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.