The 85th Group was the United States Air Force (USAF) component of U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Iceland Defense Force (IDF). the 85th Group was a tenant unit of U.S. Naval Air Station (NAS) Keflavík, strategically located on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base in the southwest corner of Iceland. Reactivated in 1952, the 85th Group was an Independent Group comprising seven squadrons and 13 staff agencies, with more than 1300 people assigned. Operationally, the group was assigned to the Iceland Defense Force (IDF) as part of Island Command Iceland.
As the "Guardians of the North," the 85th Group was responsible for deterring aggression in the North Atlantic, protecting Iceland's airspace and supporting contingency operations. This was accomplished through surveillance, air superiority and the use of rescue assets. The 85th Group was responsible for deterring aggression in the North Atlantic and protecting Iceland's airspace. It also supported contingency operations through surveillance, air superiority and rescue forces.
85th Operations Squadron (85th OS). Was the air arm of the Iceland Defense Force and sole provider of Iceland's air sovereignty. It executed USACOM tasking for rotational F-15, KC-135, and HC-130 assets. It provided operational control, intelligence, total force management and maintenance of all U.S. Air Force combat aircraft in Iceland. It also provided all aerospace intelligence to IDF. Maintains organizational infrastructure and assets for U.S. Air Force contingency operations.
The vital air defense mission were carried out by F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft of deployed temporary duty units rotating every 90 days to Iceland. While deployed to Keflavik, the F-15s were under the operational control of the 85th Operations Squadron (OS). The 85th OS's Tanker Flight oversaw the operations of deployed KC-135 Stratotanker and HC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft.
56th Rescue Squadron (56th RS) performed the rescue function for the 85th Group. Using HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, the 56th was responsible for combat rescue and reaction force response through insertion, extraction, and recovery of NATO combatants. Also known as "The Northern Lifesavers," the 56th provided continuous peacetime alert with long-range rescue capability for an area encompassing more than one million square miles and extending to the North Pole. More than 290 lives were saved since 1971 by the 56th and its predecessor, Detachment 14, 67th Aerospace and Recovery Squadron.
932d Air Control Squadron (932d ACS) was responsible for the detection and identification of all aircraft within the Iceland Military Air Defense Identification Zone. Using four ground-based radars and occasionally Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, the 85th Group's 932nd Air Control Squadron provided air surveillance of Iceland and the North Atlantic, referred to as the Military Air Defense Identification Zone (MADIZ). It controlled and coordinated the employment of assigned air defense forces to include fighter, tanker, and air/ground surveillance systems and coordinated with USACOM, NORAD and NATO command and control units and reported unidentified air traffic to the NCA.
The 85th returned to Third Air Force in Louisiana and re-equipped with North American A-36 Apache attack aircraft in early 1943, moving briefly to Kentucky for maneuvers. The group then moved to Georgia with Curtiss P-40 Warhawk single-engine fighter aircraft in early 1944 as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU) for fighter-bomber pilots. RTUs were oversized units designed to train replacement aircrew for assignment overseas. In late 1943, it assumed a split operation as its 500th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (FBS) moved to Harris Neck Army Air Field, Georgia and its 502d FBS moved to Punta Gorda Army Air Field, Florida, while the group and remaining squadrons remained at Waycross Army Air Field. It received a few P-47 Thunderbolts in March 1944. It served as a RTU until it disbanded in early in 1944, when like most RTUs and Operational Training Units its personnel, equipment, and training activities at Waycross were handed over to the 345th AAF Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit, Fighter). Those at Punta Gorda became the duty of the 344th AAF Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit, Fighter) and at Harris Neck of the 346th AAF Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit, Fighter). This reorganization occurred because the AAF found that standard military units, based on relatively inflexible tables of organization were proving less well adapted to the mission. Accordingly, a more functional system was adopted in which each base was organized into a separate numbered unit.
The second predecessor of the 85th Group was the Iceland Air Defense Force, which replaced the Iceland Base Command, which had been the headquarters for Army (and later Air Force) units stationed in Iceland since 1942 and was assigned to Military Air Transport Service (MATS). Between 1952 and 1961, provided air defense for Iceland, operated Keflavik Airport, and furnished base support for all U.S. military forces in Iceland. Fighters assigned to the unit routinely intercepted Soviet Union aircraft flying in the Iceland area. It performed its defense mission under North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the Air Force component of NATOIceland Defense Force. Keflavik Airport was transferred to the U.S. Navy on 30 June 1961, along with base support activities.
Air Forces Iceland continued the air defense mission of Iceland as a tenant organization at Keflavik. it was transferred from MATS to Air Defense Command in 1962; Tactical Air Command in 1978 and Air Combat Command in 1992 until it was inactivated in 1993 and replaced by the 35th Wing. In 1994, it was consolidated with the 85th Tactical Fighter Training Wing and activated to replace the 35th Wing to serve again as the headquarters for Air Force units in Iceland, as the 85th Wing. It assumed the operational management of fighter and tanker aircraft deployed to Iceland to protect the nation's airspace. It defended U.S. national interests in the North Atlantic. In 2003, its 56th Rescue Squadron deployed to Liberia as part of Joint Task Force Liberia. It provided a U.S. presence over the capital of Monrovia towards the end of the Second Liberian Civil War and saved lives by extracting people from the United States Embassy in Monrovia.
Air Force reductions and a new agreement with the Government of Iceland continued to affect Keflavik organizations. On 1 March 1995, the 57th Fighter Squadron was inactivated 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. The 85th Wing was reduced to a Group level in 1995 and supported rotational deployments. In 2002 jurisdiction of Air Force units in Iceland was transferred to the United States Air Forces in Europe.
The 85th Group continued to support rotational deployments until it was inactivated during a one-hour, formal ceremony on 28 June 2006, as a result of the Air Force reduction in forces in Iceland. All rotational fighters left and the 56th Rescue Squadron ceased operation at the end of the fiscal year.
^ abUSAF Press Release: Group Mission Inactivates at Keflavik, Iceland (30 June 2006)
^ abcdefgMaurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) . Air Force Combat Units of World War II(PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-912799-02-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 June 2011.
^Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II(PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 602. ISBN 978-0-405-12194-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009.
^Abstract,, History of 85th Fighter-Bomber Group 1942 (Retrieved 6 Nov 2012)
^Craven, Wesley F; Cate, James L, eds. (1955). "Introduction". The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. VI, Men & Planes. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. xxxvi. LCCN48-3657. |volume= has extra text (help)