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The Icelandic Coast Guard; Reykjavik, February 11, 2014

The Aeronautica Division of the Coast Guard; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Coast Guard of Iceland has besides a small fleet of ships also an aviation department which is stationed at the airport of Reykjavik. The Coast Guard is officially a part of the Icelandic Navy. In total, the Coast Guard is operating three Aerospatiale AS-332L1 Super Puma helicopters and one Bombardier DHC-8-Q314.

The Icelandic Coast Guard “Landhelgisgæsla Íslands” or “Landhelgisgæslan” or even shorter “Gæslan” is the maritime and aeronautical search and rescue division of the Icelandic Navy. The Coast Guard was established in 1859 with the arrival of the first coastal patrol vessel. The first defense actions at Iceland took place in 1926 when the Coast Guard armed a trawler with guns. The Icelandic Coast Guard was at its largest strength during the Cold War in the period from 1972 until 1975. The main task of the Coast Guard is to protect the Icelandic sovereignty in the territorial waters. The Search and Rescue task is in addition to this task one of the main tasks of the Coast Guard. Today, the Coast Guard is still very active in cleaning up old sea mines from the Second World War; there are still many mines present in this region of the Atlantic Ocean. Also checking the region against illegal fishing is an important task of the Coast Guard. In addition the Icelandic coast guard checks in cooperation with Denmark regularly the area around Greenland as well to protect also this area against illegal overfishing. The Coast Guard has to perform those tasks a number of offshore patrol vessels, a surveillance aircraft, satellites and a land based radar network on its orbat. The Icelandic Coast Guard has the command over the four existing land based AN/FPS-117v5 air surveillance radar systems. In the 90s, the Icelandic Coast Guard held exercises under the name “Nordic Challenge”. These exercises were held in cooperation with countries as Norway, Sweden and the UK. The Coast Guard has also participated in Peacekeeping Operations for the Icelandic Crisis Response Team.

The Aeronautics Division of the Coast Guard was established on December 10, 1955. The Coast Guard purchased at that time a Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina. The aircraft was officially employed at the Icelandic Defense Force (IDF), but was later heavily damaged near Langanes in 1954. The aircraft was registered as TF-RAN and was nicknamed Rán. Through the years, the Coast Guard had several planes and helicop-

ters in use. The main Search and Rescue helicopters which were used were the Aerospatiale SA365N Dauphin II helicopters from 1984 until 2007; these helicopters were only flown by the Coast Guard. The Fokker F-27-200 Friendship was in the recent past next to these helicopters frequently used in maritime patrols and surveillance actions. This aircraft is now displayed in the small Aviation Museum of Akureyri. The Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter fleet had shrunk drastically due to a lack of funding during the economic crisis in 2008. In contrast to the limited fleet of Iceland, the helicopters of the Coast Guard are standard registered with civil registration numbers. The Icelandic parliament (Alþingi) has never approved laws about the registrations of military or government aircraft and helicopters. Nevertheless, the helicopters and aircraft of the Coast Guard are military operated and they are also equipped with the latest US night vision equipment which was intended for the army.

Today's Aeronautics Division of the Icelandic Coast Guard is a relatively small part of the entire Coast Guard. The aircraft and helicopters of the coast guard are all stationed in a small complex on the southeast side of the airport of Reykjavik. This small airport is located near the city at the western coast line of Iceland. At this moment, the Icelandic Coast Guard is operating three Aerospatiale AS332L1 Super Puma helicopters which are all used for the SAR flight and for maritime support operations. The first Super Puma is owned by the Coast Guard and is registered as TF-LIF. The helicopter is named after LIF who was the only woman who survived the Ragnarök in the Norwegian mythology. The second and third Super Puma of the Coast Guard are registered as TF-GNA and TF-SYN and are helicopters which are long term leased from Airlift AS from Sweden. The Icelandic Coast Guard has also one Bombardier DHC-8-Q314 in use. This aircraft is registered as TF-SIF and is named after the goddess Sif who is the wife of the god Þór who is the god of thunder and troll fighting in the Norwegian mythology. The DHC-8 is often used for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance. The aircraft has replaced the Fokker F-27 Friendship of the Coast Guard in 2008. The aircraft is drastically modernized by Field and is suitable to carry the modern Mission Management System. The aircraft is also sporadically used for surveillance flights during volcanic eruptions such as the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. This eruption stopped all the air traffic in Europe and America.

The SAR flight at Reykjavik is 24 hours a day available; there is always one Super Puma standby to react on a scramble. The helicopter must be able to fly to the open sea at all types of weather. This often can cause problems at sea during the extreme cold winters due to the northern location of Iceland. The Super Puma of the Coast Guard is for emergency landings at sea equipped with inflatable tubes which are mounted on the nose and the main landing gear housings. The Super Puma has a big searchlight in the wheel housings and one in the nose of the helicopter for search actions in the darkness. The crew of the Super Puma consists of two pilots, a hoist operator and a rescue swimmer who is also qualified to provide first aid. Also an additional medic can be added to the crew in collaboration with the hospital in Reykjavik. Most scrambles which are received by the SAR flight of the Coast Guard are from fishermen at sea which get into trouble during accidents or from tourists in the mountains of the country. In most cases, these fishing boats have an injured crew member due to an accident which heeds to be evacuated from the ship to the hospital. Only in a few cases the ship needs to be evacuated completely, because it is uncontrollable during bad weather conditions at sea. In the mountains it are mostly hikers and snowmobile drivers who are injured during accidents. Only in a few cases it is about a missing person.




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