Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
“Experience of front line operations has informed the military decision that the skills required for personnel recovery on the battlefield and in the maritime environment can be sustained without the need for military personnel being engaged in UK search and rescue.”
A really scary comment by the government in defence of the new contract that skills can be updated on the battlefield? Are we planning more conflicts in the future? In reality little money or thought went into SAR and as the Sea King got older and there was no vision within MOD. Many of our leaders in the military must have seen this coming but as usual they got it wrong. The military SAR crews have been exceptional over the years and I wonder how they feel today? That will be hidden by the professionalism that is the UK Military and up to the last day they will still be there doing an exceptional job as always. The MOD spin doctors and the High Ranking Officers will be toeing the party line and all is well! It to me is another great military decision that has been made just like that of the great Nimrod debacle and others like we have aircraft carriers without planes and what is left of the military stretched beyond belief. Apart from that all is well as many of the experts walk away with huge pensions and no shame. “Lions led by donkeys” again?
I am sure that the new contract will work, SAR will make sure it does and much will be made of the great work by all in the past. There will be teething problems as there always is but it will be a new aircraft which is so badly needed. It will be interesting to see how the new bases work only time will tell. SAR and the military helicopters was a huge part of my life and I have great respect for the work of the coastguard contracted helicopters and their crews. There will be so much to learn with a new aircraft and new skills will be needed not just by the crews but by the SAR Agencies who work with them. I hope all Agencies get trained both at night and in daylight hours with the new aircraft as there will be so much to learn. This will all cost money and I hope it has been properly accounted for in the contracts? Training is vital to ensure that crews and Agencies are current in working in all situations and is a long process.There will be a few tears when the last Sea King retires and another piece of history is gone. The Government will have great statements ready like the one below. There will be much discussion and bold statements (see below) from faceless people and then it will fade away. Life changes, things move on.
“I want to pay tribute to the outstanding service personnel who have displayed such enduring commitment and bravery in RAF and RN search and rescue squadrons. The service they have provided for over 70 years has been exemplary and the country owes them all an enormous debt of gratitude. The decision to cease military involvement in search and rescue in the UK was not made lightly. But with the Sea King nearing its 40th year of service, the time has come to change the way the service is provided and the aircraft used.”
Good luck to the new contract, and the new aircraft I hope the Sea King and the military have a safe and successful last few years of SAR. No doubt there will be a big party when it all ends in 2016, many of the “great and good will attend” I doubt I will get invited. Thanks for some great and scary days in the mountains, we all have such memories of great aircraft, outstanding people and incredible rescues. Long may it live in our memories.
Thanks for all your thoughts on this subject!
Today’s music – Rhythm & Reel Album – The Crossing – The Gael