The state-of-the-art vessel represents a significant leap in capability for the force, which has seen increased demand for its missions while at the same time struggling with ageing vessels and the cancellation of the Norwegian NH90-order which was to provide the helicopter capability for the larger vessels of the force.
The Norwegian Coast Guard, which organisationally is a part of the Norwegian Navy, is responsible both for the Norwegian coastal waters, but also through their offshore component for significant areas in the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. This includes both fisheries protection duties as part of the Norwegian commitments to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, as well as safeguarding the territorial integrity of the Norwegian islands in the region – prime among these being the Svalbard Archipelago.
The workhorse in the Arctic has long been the three-strong Nordkapp-class OPVs built in the early 1980s, and while according to most accounts these have been successful vessels, their age has been showing for quite some time.
The Jan Mayen-class now replaces the Nordkapp-class on a one-to-one basis, though the retirement of the Norkapp-class from coastguard duty is already a done deal with the first to go being KV Senja retired in late 2021, and KV Andenes following suit last month. The last vessel, leadship KV Nordkapp, was transferred over to the navy as KNM Nordkapp this week, and will function as a minesweeping flagship and tender, serving with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 during 2024. But while the number of vessels remain the same, the capabilities will see a huge upgrade.
The significantly larger Jan Mayen-class – displacing 10,400 t compared to the 3,200 t of the Nordkapp-class – allows the ice-strengthened vessels to have an endurance of eight weeks, while also being able to operate the AW101 ‘SAR Queen’ heavy search and rescue helicopter in addition to the NH90 which saw service onboard the Nordkapp.
While the vessel will see its fair share of policing duties, being part of the Norwegian Navy and a key part in upholding the country’s territorial integrity the vessel is also fitted with a 40 mm deck-gun, heavy machine guns, a modern sensor suite (including the Hensoldt TRS-3D air and sea surveillance radar), as well as the Saab 9LV fire control system.
With KV Bjørnøya now following KV Jan Mayen within twelve months of the leadship being handed over, the project has so far come along rather well, in particular considering the ambitious schedule and somewhat unique nature of the vessels. The third and last ship, KV Hopen, did however suffer a minor fire last month while being fitted out at the Vard shipyard in Norway. It currently seems like the accident will not cause any delays with the handover. All three vessels are named after Norwegian Arctic islands, all three of which lack permanent population.
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