Letter: Size of helicopter rescue service

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The Independent Online
Sir: I should like to comment on your article about the findings of the House of Commons Transport Committee investigation into the provision of Search and Rescue services ('Passenger ferries 'at risk if helicopter rescue service is cut' ', 30 March).

While the Secretary of State for Transport will be answering the recommendations of the report in due course, when it has been studied in detail, I believe it is necessary to make a number of important points concerning the Search and Rescue (SAR) facilities made available by the Ministry of Defence.

The military SAR helicopter force drawn from the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy is provided to meet the military requirement in peace and war, and its size is determined by this wartime requirement. In peacetime, the force is also able to make an invaluable contribution to the civil SAR task in the UK.

The criteria for this task were established by the Department of Transport's Helicopter Coverage Working Group in 1986. Basing (such as the choice between Chivenor and Brawdy) is primarily dependent upon military operational considerations; but the implications for civil SAR and, of course, cost are taken into account.

Yours faithfully,

JEREMY HANLEY

Minister of State

for the Armed Forces

Ministry of Defence

London, SW1

30 March

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