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Armed Forces: Rescue Services

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the UK's long-distance fixed-wing search and rescue capability following the withdrawal from service of the Nimrod MR2. (321289)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 1 February 2010, Official Report, column 47W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and the answer I gave him on 25 February 2010, Official Report, column 678W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the operational radius is for Sea King helicopters based at RAF Lossiemouth for the search and rescue task. (321291)

The maximum operational radius for the RAF Sea King Mk 3/3a is 240 nautical miles. The Sea King undertakes short range Search and Rescue tasks.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what multi-agency radio communication equipment is available for RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft for communication with fishing and merchant vessels during long-range search and rescue missions; (321292)

(2) what onboard communications capability the C-130 Hercules has to co-ordinate search and rescue agencies involved in major off-shore incidents.

The Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC), based at RAF Kinloss, is responsible for co-ordinating major off-shore incidents and multi-agency rescues. An on the scene co-ordinator may be designated, if required, by the ARCC. If appropriate, this could be an RAF aircraft.

RAF Hercules C130K and C130J have HF, UHF and VHF radios using aeronautical and marine frequency bands as standard equipment. This would enable them to communicate with and co-ordinate civil and military aircraft, ships and ground stations including the ARCC and HM Coastguard.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions a UK-based Hercules C-130 has been called out on a search and rescue mission in each of the last five years. (321324)

In the last five years a Hercules C130 aircraft has been utilised on a Search and Rescue task only once, to provide on-scene co-ordination for the rescue of a civilian casualty from a ship at sea.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on (a) how many occasions and (b) for what duration search and rescue assets at RAF Gannett have been unavailable during the last 12 months; and on what proportion of such occasions those assets were unavailable because of (i) aircrew shortages and (ii) technical problems. (321334)

During the period 1 March 2009 to 28 February 2010, the Search and Rescue aircraft at HMS Gannet were available for 97 per cent. of the time. There were 46 occasions when an aircraft was not available at the required notice of 15 minutes by day, 45 minutes by night. These occasions were all due to technical problems. The average down-time was three and a half hours, although there were four occasions when an aircraft was not available for a period of over 24 hours. These four occurred during a period when Gannet had loaned one of its complement of three aircraft to its sister SAR unit, 771 Naval Air Station based at RNAS Culdrose.

On an occasion when no aircraft was available, any calls for assistance received by the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre at RAF Kinloss would have been channelled to RAF Stations at Lossiemouth or Boulmer or to the Maritime Coastguard Agency at Stornoway.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (a) how many S-92 helicopters his Department plans to procure for the UK-based search and rescue helicopter task and (b) where those helicopters will be based. (321335)

The future joint Ministry of Defence/Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MOD/MCA) Search and Rescue Helicopter service will be provided by the contractor Soteria under a service contract - MOD/MCA will not be procuring any helicopters. It will be the contractor's responsibility to ensure, throughout

the life of the contract, that they have sufficient helicopters to meet the requirement to be able to field one helicopter to incidents from each base during its operating hours. The helicopters will be based at RAF Boulmer, RMB Chivenor, RNAS Culdrose, Glasgow Airport, Leconfield, Lee On Solent, RAF Lossiemouth, Portland, Stornoway, Sumburgh, RAF Valley and Wattisham Airfield.