Icelandic Coast Guard

Icelandic Coast Guard
Icelandic Coast Guard
Landhelgisgæsla Íslands
LHG skjöldur opinber 2005.jpg
Active 1920
Country  Iceland
Role National Defence, Law enforcement, Maritime and Aviation Search and Rescue, Counter Terrorism, Minesweeping, Explosive Ordinance Disposal and other tasks. [1][2][3] [4]
Size 3 x ships
1 x plane
2 x Helicopters
1 x Survey boat
165 x Officers and men
Nickname Gæslan (The Guard)
Motto ,,Við erum til taks‘‘ ("Always prepared")
Engagements World War II
Cod Wars
Iraq War
General Director R.Adm Georg Lárusson
Chief of Operations Capt. Halldór B. Nellett
Chief of Aeronautical division Cdr. s.g. Sindri Steingrímsson
Naval Ensign Flag of Iceland (state).svg
Aircraft flown
Patrol 1 Bombardier DHC-8-Q314
Transport 2 Aérospatiale AS-332L1 Super Puma
ICGV Þór - flagship of Icelandic Coast Guard since 2011

The Icelandic Coast Guard is the service responsible for Iceland's coastal defense and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue. Origins of the Icelandic Coast Guard (Landhelgisgæsla Íslands or Landhelgisgæslan) can be traced to 1859, when the corvette Ørnen started patrolling Icelandic waters. In 1906, Iceland's first purposely built guard-ship, Islands Falk, began operation. Iceland's own defense of its territorial waters began around 1920 and the Icelandic Coast Guard was formally founded on July 1, 1926. The first cannon was put on the trawler Þór in 1924 and on June 23, 1926 the first ship built for the Coast Guard, named Óðinn, arrived in Iceland. Three years later, on the 14 July 1929 the coastal defence ship Ægir was added to the Coast Guard fleet.

The Icelandic Coast Guard played its largest role during the Cod Wars between 1972 and 1975, when the Coast Guard ships would cut the trawl wires of British and West German trawlers, in order to protect sealife from overfishing, and engaged in confrontations with Royal Navy warships.



from left: captain of þór Sigurður Steinar Ketilson, director of Coast Gard Georg Lárusson, President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Icelandic Coast Guard EOD specialist defusing a Car bomb in Iraq.

The Icelandic Coast Guard's (ICG) primary mission is the defending the Icelandic sovereignty, integrity of the territorial waters, maintaining Icelandic law and order inside the 200nm wide Economic zone as well as other vital missions such as Search and Rescue. The Coast Guard operates JRCC-Iceland which is responsible for search and rescue of vessels and aircraft in Iceland's search and rescue region (SRR) according to International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual. Additionally the ICG is in the charge of defusing Naval mines, most of which were laid during the Second World War, and monitoring fisheries in International waters outside of the Icelandic Economic zone in order to blacklist any vessel partaking in unregulated fishing and thus bar them from receiving services from any member of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission[5] in order to make unregulated fishing unprofitable. The Icelandic Coast Guard also occasionally operates within Greenlandic and Faeroese waters, following a bilateral agreement with Denmark regarding mutual aid in security, rescue and defence matters.

The Coast Guard accomplishes these tasks with the use of offshore patrol vessels (OPV), helicopters, surveillance aircraft, satellites and a network of land based surface scanning radar.

The Icelandic Coast Guard is also in charge of the Iceland Air Defence System, which operates four ground-based AN/FPS-117v5 air surveillance radars and a control and command centre.

In the 1990s the Coast Guard started hosting exercises such as "Northern Challenge" which had military units from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom, among others, participating along with the Icelandic Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has also taken part in Peacekeeping Operations on behalf of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit, although while usually using their own rank insignia, uniforms and weapons.

The fleet

Currently the Icelandic Coast Guard fleet consists of three Offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and one coastal hydrographic vessel. In 2011 the Coast Guard received the new ICGV Þór built by the Asmar shipyard in Talcahuano, Chile.[6] [7] ICGV Týr, an Ægir-class, is the second youngest, built by Århus Flydedok a/s and launched in 1975. ICGV Ægir an Ægir-class is ICGV Týr's sister-ship, built by Ålborg Værft a/s and launched in 1968. Each ship is equipped with two or more rigid inflatable boats of various sizes and armed with a 40 mm Bofors cannon. Various kinds of small-arms as well as other man portable weapons are also carried onboard each of the ships. Týr and Þór are also equipped with sonar systems and the Ægir class sisterships have flight decks and a hangar for a small helicopter. While the Coast Guard currently doesn't operate small enough helicopters to use the hangars, the flight decks are often used by the helicopters of the Aeronautical Division on various missions. The coast guard has a 64 ton hydrographic boat as well, named Baldur, it was built by Vélsmiðja Seyðisfjarðar in 1991. This vessel has no mounted weaponry but it has nonetheless been used for port security and fishery inspection.

The aeronautical division

The Coast Guard's Aeronautical Division was founded on December 10, 1955 when a Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina flying boat was acquired. It was originally from the Iceland Defense Force but was damaged near Langanes in 1954. It was registered as TF-RAN and nicknamed Rán. The Catalina flew variously armed and unarmed, and in one instance the crew used a broomstick to force disobedient fishermen to sail directly to nearest port[citation needed].

Currently the Icelandic Coast Guard operates two Aerospatiale AS-332L1 Super Puma helicopters, which are registered as TF-LIF and TF-GNA. As a response to the withdrawal of the Iceland Defense Force at the year 2006 the Coast Guard operated four helicopters, but due to the consequences of the economical crisis in Iceland 2008 the number of helicopters had to be reduced to two.

The Coast Guard also operates a single Bombardier DHC-8-Q314, registered as TF-SIF, modified for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance. This plane has been extensively modified by FIELD to carry a modern Mission Management System and suite of surveillance sensors, air operable door and communications/navigation equipment. It is occasionally also used for surveillance of volcanic eruptions, e.g. of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.

Unlike the fleet, aircraft of the Icelandic Coast Guard have standard Icelandic civilian registers, as the Alþingi (parliament) has never agreed on laws for military or government aircraft. Over the time since the division was formed the regulations for standard civilian aircraft have become more restrictive. As a result the Coast Guard can no longer operate military aircraft like it did in the past. Nevertheless, current helicopters are outfitted with latest generation U.S. night vision equipment, reserved for U.S. armed forces and the armies of their allies and thus the only civilian registered aircraft in the world, so equipped.[citation needed]

Ships and aircraft

ICGV Baldur (left) and ICGV Ægir docked in Reykjavík old-harbour
Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter
Helicopter TF-LIF, an AS 332L2 Super Puma

All major vehicles of the Icelandic Coast Guard are currently named after beings from norse mythology.

Currently operated vessels
  • ICGV Þór (III) an Offshore patrol vessel commissioned in late 2011 and the flagship of the service. Named after Þór the god of thunder, lighting and troll slaying.
  • ICGV Týr (II) an Ægir-class Offshore Patrol Vessel named after Týr, the god of combat and heroism.
  • ICGV Ægir (II) an Ægir-class Offshore Patrol Vessel named after Ægir, the king of the sea.
  • ICGV Baldur a Hydrographic vessel named after Baldur, god of beauty and more.
Currently operated aircraft
  • TF-SIF is a Bombardier DHC-8-Q314 named after Sif, goddess and wife of Þór, the god of thunder and trollslaying.
  • TF-LIF is an Aérospatiale AS-332L1 Super Puma named after Líf, the only woman who will survive Ragnarök.
Currently operated rental aircraft
Decommissioned vessels
  • ICGV Óðinn (I)
  • ICGV Gautur, originally named Óðinn (II) but renamed when a new Óðinn (III) arrived, Gautur is one of Óðinn's pseudonyms.
  • ICGV Óðinn (III) an Offshore Patrol Vessel named after Óðinn the allseeing father of the gods.
  • ICGV Baldur (I), a fast patrol boat used for less than a year and returned because of bad characteristics in rough seas.
  • ICGV Baldur (II), an armed trawler.
  • ICGV Bragi, named after Bragi the god of poetry. A fast patrol boat used for less than a year and returned because of bad characteristics in rough seas.
  • ICGV Njörður, named after Njörðr the god of wind, fertile land along the seacoast, as well as seamanship, sailing and fishing. A fast patrol boat used for less than a year and returned because of bad characteristics in rough seas.
  • ICGV Týr (I), a whaler (Hvalur 9) borrowed during the second Cod War usually called Hval-Týr.
  • ICGV Þór (I)
  • ICGV Þór (II)
  • ICGV Ægir (I)
Other historical vessels that haven't adhered to the Norse mythology tradition
  • ICGV Albert, patrol boat.
  • ICGV Árvakur, a lighthouse tender and patrol ship decommissioned in the 1970s.
  • ICGV María Júlía, patrol ship named after one of those who financed her construction.
  • ICGV Sæbjörg, a patrol and rescue ship.
  • ICGV Ver, an armed trawler
Decommissioned aircraft

In addition the Coast Guard has rented or borrowed a number of civilian vessels and aircraft for shorter periods, which are not listed.


Small arms

H&K G3 rifle

Some of the firearms used by the Icelandic Coast Guard:[9][10][11]

Naval artillery

Ranks of the Icelandic Coast Guard


NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student Officer
IcelandIceland No Equivalent No Equivalent No Equivalent
No Equivalent
No Equivalent
Ranks Director General Chief of operations 1°Captain of vessel/aircraft 2°Captain of vessel/aircraft Commanding officer Officer after 6 years service Officer after 2 years service Officer


NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
IcelandIceland ICG-OR9.gif No Equivalent ICG-OR7.gif
No Equivalent
No Equivalent ICG-OR3.gif ICG-OR2a.gif ICG-OR2b-2007.gif ICG-OR1-2007.gif
Ranks Petty officer/specialist after 12 years service Petty officer/specialist after 6 years servic Petty officer/specialist Enlisted after 6 years service Enlisted after 3 years service Enlisted after 1 year service Enlisted

Future prospects

Ex-ICGV Óðinn.

Currently, bidding for a contract to build a new 94-meter-long vessel for the Coast Guard is underway, as a replacement for V/s Óðinn which is going to become a museum piece. The new ship is based on the design of the Norwegian Harstad class offshore patrol vessels, although old Coast Guard officers such as Höskuldur Skarphéðinsson, who was captain of V/s Baldur during the last Cod War, have called for more powerful vessels similar to the Danish Thetis class ships. Incidentally the design for a new Coast Guard vessel from 1997 was armed with an Otobreda 76 mm gun like the Danish ships, while Harstad class ships are armed with the same 40 mm Bofors gun that is already in use with the Icelandic Coast Guard. On December 1, 2006 the government approved the construction of this new ship which will be done by the Asmar shipbuilding company in Chile. The design for the ship was done by Rolls Royce in Norway and it will weight 4000 tons and thus considerably bigger than the Norwegian Harstad class, it will also be slightly faster. No information is available yet as for its armament. Although it has not been confirmed, it is believed likely that it will bear the name V/s Þór.[1]

In an announcement on 24 March 2006, the Minister of justice and ecclesiastical affairs, Björn Bjarnason affirmed that, as a result of the withdrawal of the Iceland Defense Force, more helicopters will be rented for the Coast Guard, before September 2006, and that new ones will be bought later. Both France and Russia have declared their interest in selling helicopters and other defence materials.

On 23 May 2006, in an announcement, the Ministry of justice and ecclesiastical affairs declared their decision to rent two helicopters of the same type already operated by the Coast Guard. As the supply of Aerospatiale AS-332L1 Super Puma helicopters for renting is very limited it was decided to rent a single Aerospatiale SA-365N Dauphin II along with the Super Puma, increasing the size of the Coast Guard helicopter fleet by 100%. These helicopters will be rented for one year with an option to lengthen the renting period by six to twelve months. Since this is only to be a temporary measure, plans for future composition of the helicopter fleet were released in June 2006. [2] The helicopers reported to be under consideration are the Eurocopter EC225, NH Industries NH90, Sikorsky S-92 and AgustaWestland EH101. Although buying the NH 90 helicopters would require the Coast Guard helicopters to be reclassified as military helicopters.

See also


External links

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