Iceland security

I meant to write a normal-sized blog post about this for a while, but I'm simply not very motivated to blog these days.

So have a look at these




keep the previous post on OTH radars in mind and stuff like this

and this

and have your own thoughts about whether we (NATO) maybe neglecting the Northern flank's security these days and what should be done instead.



  1. Hi,

    Random and off topic. Feel free to ignore. What are your thoughts on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?

    Is it an attempt by Russia to cut UKR out of the line to allow greater military or paramilitary involvement in the war without widening it inevitably to Western Europe.

    Is Germany cautious because of the possibility of hybrid attacks, information, corruption, influence etc...

    Beyond the ethnic Russian population of Germany is the current (justified) anti american feeling in Germany a significant reason in the argument in favour of the pipeline?

    What do you think Schröders primary motivation is?

    1. I don't think it's important.
      Russia is in an undeclared limited war with Ukraine, but it still exports natural gas through Ukraine.

      The Russians need to export as many raw materials to Europe as possible because the lack of rule of law inhibits their manufacturing sector and thus almost none of their manufactured goods are competitive on world markets. Meanwhile, many EU countries would have serious trouble if natural gas imports would drop sharply.
      So in the end the gas will flow anyway, and Ukraine had years time to prepare for a loss of gas imports in the next winter. I suppose it's their own fault if they have no backup plan after years of hot conflict.

      BTW, Schröder is unimportant and unpopular. His loyalists are fading in the top circles of SPD politicians and the SPD is but the junior partner in the ruling coalition because it's down to 20.5% in large part due to Schröder's legacy.

  2. Thanks for the reply,

    Your opinion chimes with what Ive read / heard so far. Theres a debate on youtube, Atlantic Council, Nord Stream 2: What the US and Europe Can and Should Do. The debate starts at 2 hrs into the video. Pretty interesting discussion, empassioned on both sides. This single issue ecompases alot of the current angst that is in the air at the moment.

    The pipeline will serve as a canary in the coal mine as to future Russian strategy if nothing else.

  3. On topic. :- )

    I am struggling with the importance of Iceland in a war involving current generation technology.

    In the old days we had SOSUS on Iceland which could be used to vector ASW aircraft, or SSNs, onto submarines. Some of those ASW aircraft were based on Iceland. That approach now seems less than tenable for three reasons.

    1. Subs are now a lot quieter. Presumably an active version of SOSUS could work.
    2. SOSUS infrastructure is now much more vulnerable to attack either directly, by semi precision or precison CMs (either air or sub launched) or by underwater attack of the sensors or cables.
    3. It seems highly unlikely that the one suitable airfield on Iceland could be kept open in the face of a determined conventional or conventional+CBRN effort to close it.

    The flip side of that is that, should Keflavik be lost intact, it would be a relatively straightforward exercise to render its continued use untenable. Basically if pre-configured demolitions or cavities and separate munitions are not already in place to moonscape the runway, taxiways etc. someone deserves to be taken out and shot. Ditto if there is no plan for rapidly dealing with approaching suspicious cargo aircraft etc.

    Given that there is no means for the Russians to continue to operate from or resupply Keflavik upon its capture, and that the other systems they could place on the island have comparatively short reach or acquisition sensor limitations, I would ask is there actually any point in defending it to an extent greater than holding out long enough to ensure all relevant facilities are destroyed? Would its seizure by the Russians prove more important than that of Attu and Kiska by the Japanese in WW2?

    For shits and giggles though, let's say you wanted to create a small force, primarily of reservists, to mount some kind of defence vs a surprise landing by a cargo aircraft etc or from a ferry or cargo ship in the harbour. I would have a section on duty at all times with the ability to surge a platoon to the airport and harbour within 1 hour and a company to each within 3 hours. Weapons would be more focused on impeding the enemy rather than stopping them. There are few roads between Keflavik and Rekjavik and these would be easily interdicted or blown up making the prospect of a dash between one or another untenable. The harbour facilties require preconfigured demolitions or at least adequate sabotage facilities in the linkspans etc. It would be good to have mortars, indirect fire ATGMs and amti material rifles to be able to continue to render the port and airport unusable from a distance and claymores, off route anti tank mines and LAWs to directly interdict efforts to re-establish a link between the airport and harbour. A few Stingers would be a good idea too, to take care of helicopters (I am assuming fire trucks disabled across the runway would stop a conventional landing even if demolitions were not initiated). The mere knowledge that credible demolition efforts would be put in place in the knowledge of an imminent attack should be enough to deter invasion.

    1. The risk that Iceland becomes a bargaining chip after a coup de main is quite disconcerting.

      My invasion scenario is rather that Russian saboteurs knock out the air policing fighters, then VDV lands in good order and brigade strength, followed by a reinforced S-300 regiment and some artillery including anti-ship missiles. A wing of Su-3x deploys to Iceland.
      To retake it would require 2-4 CVNs unite their power, amphibious landing of a division equivalent of marines and endanger hundreds of thousands of allied civilians.

      A militia would rather not make sense on Iceland, except for guarding military installations.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. How would a wing of Su-34s operate from an airfield that had had its facilities destroyed or sabotaged? What would provide them with AEW? How would this relatively large force be resupplied? If you could keep wrecking the airfield with standoff weapons and cut it off from resupply with one SSN, how would it continue to operate? KRT, the force you describe of 30 active and c 170 reservists in a crisis response team sounds entirely adequate if it could be largely mobilised in time of tension.

    1. 200 armed men are adequate for what? I suppose they wouldn't suffice to only guard the airport. The Russians could appear at Iceland with a regiment of lightly mechanised VDV as the first wave.
      Cruise missiles are not equipped for efficient runway cratering, and they would be unable to keep an airport from operating even if there were no hard kill defences.

      Kevlavik airport is large and has many nearby straight roads of sufficient length. It's a simple, WW2-technology challenge to create improvised runways there.

      Cruise missiles may not even be able to penetrate the air defences. They would also need to overcome RF jamming to find any targets with more than a mere INS-reliant autopilot and laser altimeter.

      Carrier-borne air attacks would be the real challenge to whatever occupation garrison would be there.

    2. Living on a bit of a remote island a little South of Iceland myself, I would imagine it would be hard enough keeping an airport open without folk lobbing cruise missiles at you, blowing up the installations (those not sabotaged in the first place) and cutting off your supplies from outside. I looked at Keflavik - most of the nearby "straight" roads really aren't particularly wide or straight. We have had stealthy cruise missiles with image seekers for about 15 years now. Every SAM they put up against a cruise missile is one more they have to replace from somewhere. I also don't see how carrier borne air attacks could make it in if cruise missiles (including stealthy ones) can't. 200 people would be more than enough to sabotage everything necessary and to make a real nuisance of themselves to any occupier.

      All of this happens if we overlook the fact that a Russian attack is unlikely to come out of the blue. Keflavik is, by my reckoning, about 3000km from the nearest Russian airfield that could host VDV transports. That is if they approach around the top of an acquiescent Norway. Assuming, by some miracle, they pulled off an air assault at 3000km from their nearest base, how would they resupply?

      I have to be honest. I didn't buy this as a plausible scenario when Tom Clancy wrote about it and I still don't now.

    3. The Il-76 is the Russian air force's transport workhorse. Depending on version it can be expected to deliver 20-40 metric tons from Murmansk to Reykjavik and return empty without refuelling if there's no fighter threat in Northern Norway that needs to be avoided.

      Air policing fighters could be suppressed by a single destroyer nearby, and the 13 hardened shelters are easy targets for PGMs.

      I counted 12 official and improvised runways Su-3x could use for take-off, almost all of them would be suitable for landing as well. That's before taking into account any civilian roads or improvised surfaces.

      IMO it would take
      - one freighter with kerosene (in containers), construction supplies, heavy vehicles and artillery munitions
      - one destroyer with suitable SAMs to suppress the airport (also usable for shelling parts of it)
      - about 20 newer series Il-76 and An-124 ferrying personnel in for three days including the first VDV wave

      The sustainment challenge would be primarily about the question for how long the airport's and ship-delivered kerosene and alternatively available fuels would last.

      I still suppose that having a NATO member occupied would be a more valuable bargaining chip than having 6,000 Russian combatants isolated and put in jeopardy.
      Russia would need bargaining chips to avoid a "ceasefire and Cold War forever" outcome of a conflict as it happened in Korea. Some surplus occupied territory - more than is meant to be annexed - would be a necessity to reach a peace instead of just a lasting ceasefire.
      Svalbard is quite unimportant, so Iceland would (so far) be an easily-taken bargaining chip.

    4. I should add that there's a refuelling probe on the A-50, which is a modified Il-76. It would take mere months to modify Il-76 for getting refuelled in the air. Then it's like 40-50 tons per sortie. The same troughput is possible if they may land and refuel at Keflavik.

      The logistical issues can be mastered if there's a will. Remember with what little Germany invaded Norway despite the dominant RN's efforts.

  5. The northern flank is where Russians currently enjoy relative advantage compared to NATO and its allies.

    The Baltic countries are exposed and hard to defend. Finland would struggle to defend her own territory if attacked on a wide front and Sweden is weak militarily. A swift capitulation in the Baltics would therefore have a fair chance of success.

    In the high north Russia could invade either Svalbard or Iceland or both. Northern Norway is also exposed to a Russian attack especially if simultaneously attacked via Finnish Lapland as were the Soviet invasion plans during the Cold War. This would also split the Finnish defense effort making it even harder to assist the Baltic countries.

    After fait accompli is established Putin would declare to defend it with nuclear weapons. NATO would sue for peace.

  6. This scenario still requires a number of miracles to take place.

    1. Il-76 arrive unopposed despite having to transit around Norway. (Yes, the Russians can target HAS, but those same HAS can be targeted by us)

    2. Locals do not blow up airport facilities, crater runway, contaminate fuel etc. This would be really easy to do. It's hard enough to keep an airport in an isolated location operational in peacetime. If this eventuality hasn't already been planned for, someone needs to be taken out and shot.

    3. NATO does nothing about an isolated enemy destroyer and freighter sitting in predictable location. They are allowed to just show up and the freighter to unload unmolested.

    4. NATO then bizarrely does nothing about airbase occupied by Russians (not lobbing the odd B-1 bomber loaded with 24 stealthy cruise missiles against it, for example), or improvised runways, which are also going to be finite in number and are quite narrow. Operating from those in winter would be interesting to say the least :) A local with a satphone can tip NATO off on which ones are being used assuming no satellite coverage (unlikely).

    5. The Su-35s then find something worthwhile to do to warrant the effort. Even with buddy refuelling, they are hardly going to be able to target NATO convoys transiting to Lisbon from the States.

    In WW2 the German Navy came off very badly in the Norwegian campaign. Remember we are talking a country pretty much adjacent to German occupied territory with lots of Fjords to hide in. Not a volcanic wasteland thousands of Km across opposed ocean. If we are going to use WW2 as an example, you had a successful island hopping campaign against an enemy. However, it featured a massive preponderance of resources and a truly massive logistics train. The Russians have no massive preponderance in resources (one clapped out aircraft carrier and a few obsolescing major surface ships with major serviceability problems) and their logistics would be easily interdicted.

    If you are going to have a situation where an airfield or other facilities that cannot be closed by hitting key points with cruise missiles, then the same must be true of NATO airfields, which puts Keflavik in range of UK based F-22s, F-35s and Storm Shadow equipped Tornadoes with air refuelling support (Tornadoes made cruise missile attacks on targets deep in Libya from Norfolk).

    If the US decided to risk a B-2 on a mission over Iceland, something like this might well happen:


    PS, after the Icelandic financial crash, several countries, the UK included, pulled out of the air policing mission. Some of us might actually like Iceland to experience Russian occupation. :)

    1. I don't think any of those points are very important. That's what plans, deception and preparations are for. It's clearly a first day of conflict risk, and much more is practical on the first day than on the 10th.
      Besides, as of today we don't know if the U.S. armed services would be in the fight to defend NATO anytime in the first month of conflict. Even without any political time lag the USN surface and naval air elements would take a long time from East coast or Med to the far North Atlantic. There's usually not much more than submarines and Norwegian warships north of Scotland.