This April saw the start the ofthe wind down of the RAF Search and Rescue Helicopters Force ahead of the Fleet Air Arms two Search and Rescue Flights which will transfer operations to the new Coast Guard administered Harmonised SAR Helicopter contract by the end of the year.
Under the new contract, 22 Sikorsky S92 and AW 189 helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK. Ten S-92 will be based two per site at Stornoway, Sumburgh, Newquay Caenarfon and Humberside and two AW 189 per site will operate from Lee-on-Solent Prestwick ST Athan, Inverness and Manston.
On the 1st April 2015, the new Coast Guard Helicopters based at Humberside will take over the SAR responsibility from the RAF Sea King HAR Mk 3 of 202 Squadrons E Flight based at RAF Leconfield and the Inverness MCGA based helicopters from 202 squadrons D Flight at RAF Losseimouth. Then 1st July 22 Squadrons C flight at RAF Valley and Watisham based 202 Squadron B Flight surrender their roles to the coast guard contractors units based at Caernarfon and Manston. 202 Squadrons A Flight at RAF Boulmer will close in September 2015, followed by the final RAF SAR flight 22 squadrons A Flight based at RMB Chivenor which will then hand over to the MCGA unit at Cardiff, on the 1st October, bringing to an end over Seventy years of RAF Search and Rescue the final two SAR flights operated by the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Culderose 771 NAS and at Prestwick, the HMS Gannet SAR Flight will be the last two Military SAR Flights to close when on the 1st January 2016 they hand over their SAR role to the Coast Guard helicopters at Newquay and Prestwick. The existing Coast Guard helicopters operating from Stornoway, Lee-on-Solent and Sumburgh will come under the new arrangements.
The existing SAR arrangements in Cyprus will continue with the 84 squadron operating COMR (Contractor Owned Military Registered) Bell 412 Griffin HAR Mk 2s, along with SAR and support helicopters arrangements in the South Atlantic, which are being provided under a new civilianised Support Helicopter Contract which was announced at the beginning of the year. AAR Airlift and British International Helicopters have been awarded a 10 year performance contract to provide the British Forces South Atlantic Islands with SAR and Support Helicopters. The service will be based around BIH Sikorsky S-61 Helicopters and two New AgustaWestland AW 189 SAR Helicopters, which will replace the RAF Sea King HAR Mk 3 stationed at Mount Pleasant ahead of the types withdrawal in April of next year.