Icelandic Coast Guard
By Hans van Herk
The Icelandic Coast Guard (Icelandic: Landhelgisgæsla Íslands, Landhelgisgæslan or simply Gæslan) is the service responsible for Iceland's coastal defense and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue. Its origins can be traced to 1859, when the corvette Ørnen started patrolling Icelandic waters.
The Coast Guard also maintains the Iceland Air Defence System which conducts ground surveillance of Iceland's air space.
The Coast Guard's Aeronautical Division was founded on 10 December 1955 when a Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina flying boat was acquired. Unlike the fleet, aircraft of the Icelandic Coast Guard have standard Icelandic civilian registers, as the Althing (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.