At the end of next month the Royal Navy s two Search and Rescue units HMS Gannet SAR flight at Prestwick and 771 NAS at Culdrose,will hand over their SAR task to the Coast Guard contractor and will bring to a close the UKs military SAR commitment.
The RAFs final SAR detachment stepped down in October as part of the transition to the new Harmonised helicopter provision under the auspices of the Coast Guard.
The Military involvement in the provision of SAR helicopters is tied to the retirement of the venerable Sea King. Originally the Sea King OSD was planned for 31st March 2016, by which time all of the British Military Sea King helicopters would have been withdrawn with the SAR task being transferred and the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Forces final Sea King H C mk 4 s having been replaced by the Merlin H C mk 4i.
But it is Now planned that the Royal Navy will now operate the Sea King ASaC Mk 7 for a further two years until they are replaced by the Merlin H M mk 2 equipped with the Crowsnest command and control system.
So as the Royal Navy prepares to hang up its SAR mantle it is time to signal “Bravo Zulu” (Signal: Well Done) to all those that have maintained or flown with the Royal Navy’s SAR helicopter since its inception in 1953.