Helicopter rescue to be civilian only

Britain’s search-and-rescue helicopter service, whose military pilots include the Duke of Cambridge, is to become a civilian-only operation, the Government announced yesterday.

The plans also include the end of search-and-rescue operations at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland in 2015 and at the coastguard centre at Portland in Dorset in 2017.

William is involved in search-and-rescue work from his base at RAF Valley in Anglesey and helped in a rescue operation in the Irish Sea on Sunday.

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had already announced its intention to retire its fleet of Sea King helicopters by March 2016.

Under existing arrangements, search and rescue is provided jointly by the MoD – operating a fleet of Sea King helicopters from eight military bases – with a further four civilian bases operated under contract to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Yesterday Transport Secretary Justine Greening said search and rescue would be provided by civilian crews following the Sea Kings’ retirement.

She thanked the Royal Navy and the RAF crews for their dedication and professionalism in delivering an exemplary search and rescue service for many years.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said Britain would be getting a new fleet of faster and more modern search-and-rescue helicopters.