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The RAF Search and Rescue Force (SARF or SAR Force) is the Royal Air Force organization which provide around the clock aeronautical search and rescue cover in the United Kingdommarker, Cyprusmarker and the Falkland Islandsmarker.


The SARF's primary role is military search and rescue. This is the rescuing of aircrew who have ejected or crash-landed their aircraft. This role raises the wartime combat effectiveness of the RAF by enabling downed aircrew to be returned to front-line flying duties as soon as possible.

Although established with a primary role of military search and rescue, most of SARF's operational missions are spent in its secondary role, conducting civil search and rescue. This entails the rescue of civilians from the sea, on mountains, from flooded regions or other locations on land.

The aeronautical search and rescue roles are complemented by the related Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service whose trained mountaineers also conduct search and rescue in hilly terrain. SARF helicopters and RAF mountaineers often work together on mountain rescue incidents.

The military and civil roles are shared with the Sea King helicopters of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, while the civil search and rescue role is also shared with the helicopters of HM Coastguard.


The SAR Force headquarters is situated at RAF Valleymarker on Angleseymarker. In addition to the Force HQ proper, the HQ building houses the the HQs of the RAFs two operational SAR squadrons in the UK (22 and 202), as well as the RAF Sea King Simulator. SAR Force HQ controls the SAR Force's three helicopter squadrons and one independent flight. These are:

SARF's Operational Conversion Unit is No. 203 Squadron also based at RAF Valleymarker and equipped with the Sea King HAR3.


In the UKmarker, maritime search and rescue is coordinated by HM Coastguard, while land-based operations are usually coordinated by the local Police force. Aircraft coordination is carried out by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre based at RAF Kinlossmarker in the north of Scotland. The centre is responsible for tasking and coordinating all of the UK's search and rescue helicopter and RAF mountain rescue teams.

In 2006, the government announced controversial plans to effectively privatise provision of search and rescue helicopters in order to replace the aging Sea King currently in use, although they have suggested that crews may, at least partially, still be made up of military personnel.


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