The RAF, RN and Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) today maintain a 24-hour Search and Rescue Service covering the whole of the United Kingdom Search and Rescue Region (UKSRR). This equates to an area of approximately 1 million square miles of land and sea. The military element of this service exists primarily to assist with military aeronautical incidents, however, the majority of tasking involves assisting civilians on both land and at sea. Tasks range from airlifting sick and injured crew from fishing vessels to transfering seriously ill patients requiring urgent medical treatment.
To meet the SAR tasks, winch equipped RAF, RN and MCA Sea King helicopters are located at 12 bases around the UK coastline. All except Portland are on 24hr standby and must be airborne within 15 mins by day and 45 mins at night. A Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft is also on permanent 2 hour standby at RAF Kinloss. It is equipped with lifesaving equipment that can be dropped to survivors in the water. In addition, the Nimrod serves as an essential asset for searching large areas at sea, and at long distances from the UK mainland, using its comprehensive location equipment.
The extensive onboard communications suite also makes it an ideal platform to co-ordinate SAR assets on scene. ARCC staff may also call upon any other military or civilian units that may be near the incident area to render assistance. Four RAF Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) complete the assets available within the UKSAR Organisation. Teams comprise mainly of volunteer RAF members with approximately 7 permanent members per team. Similarly, their primary tasking is to assist in the recovery of downed military aircrew, although they are more frequently called upon to assist in civilian land rescues. Team members are specially trained in dealing with the complexities of locating and securing aircraft crash sites, however, they are fully trained in all aspects of search techniques and casualty care. In addition, civilian mountain rescue teams located all around the UK can be requested to help in the search and rescue of a casualty.
The ARCC is equipped with a purpose-designed Rescue Coordination System. The computer-based system gives controllers immediate access to a wide-ranging database of emergency services and assets, and allows detailed logging of incidents in real time. The system allows for communications at the touch of a screen to all military SAR units, as well as numerous CG, Police and local authority centres. Staff can also communicate directly with aircraft and MRTs via a long range HF Radio System.