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The Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy will no longer provide a Search and Rescue Helicopter service in the UK after March 2016.

UK Search and Rescue is currently provided by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel and from a civilian helicopter service under contract to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The service is jointly managed by the MCA and the Ministry of Defence.

In 2005 the Government established a project to bring the SAR-H services into a single entity. Initially the plan was to use both civilian and military aircrews. However after abandoning its first attempt to secure a private sector bidder for the contract in February 2011, the Government later re-launched the competition seeking a purely civilian operated service. The military Search and Rescue service will be drawn down in 2015 and early 2016 ahead of the retirement from service of the Sea King helicopter fleet in March 2016.

The Department of Transport is taking over full responsibility for maintaining the UK Search and Rescue Helicopters (SAR-H) capability. The new service will be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and run by Bristow Helicopters Ltd, who won the contract in March 2013. They will progressively take over the service from 2015 and be fully operational across the whole country by summer 2017.

Further information about changes to the Coastguard service can be found in HC Library standard note 186, Shipping: HM Coastguard, 9 April 2013.


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