To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the outcome of the review announced on 21 October 1992, Official Report, columns 307–8, into arrangements for the co-ordination of the military response to search-and-rescue incidents; and if he will make a statement.
On 21 October 1992, my right hon. Friend the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces announced our plans, following a review carried out in consultation with the Department of Transport, for the future deployment of the Royal Air Force search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service, employing a highly capable all-Sea King fleet. Under the terms of an agreement with the Department of Transport, RAF and Royal Navy SAR helicopters assist in the civil SAR task.Following a detailed review of arrangements for SAR co-ordination, I have concluded that these aircraft, and all military SAR operations, should be controlled from a single centre in the United Kingdom, to be located at RAF Pitreavie Castle in Fife. This national military rescue co-ordination centre (RCC) will be equipped with a comprehensive mission support system (MSS), comprising the most modern communications and computer equipment. The MSS will provide an intergrated communications and search planning capability, relieving RCC controllers of numerous routine tasks, and enabling the RCC to discharge its role in the most effective way possible.We intend that the new single RCC will be operational by the end of 1994. Once this RCC is fully proven, which should be during the first half of 1995, the existing second RCC, which is manned by service personnel at the maritime headquarters at Mount Wise in Plymouth, will close, releasing those personnel for other duties.