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Ronald de Roij reports on the SAR meet 2015 at Nordholz NAS
Pictures by the authors unless stated otherwise

In Europe, active SAR units gather once a year on the occasion of an International SAR meet, which is organised on a rotating basis by participating units or nations. A SAR meet consists of a number of contests allowing the different teams to improve their skills by learning from other competitors, whether they are pilots, navigators, flight engineers, medics or divers.

After the 2014 ‘farewell’ meet of Dutch 303 Sq. (the unit disbanded in 2015, handing over SAR duties to a civil contractor) the 7th annual SAR Meet event was organized Marine Flieger Gruppe 5 (Naval Air Wing 5) at Naval Air station Nordholz in Northern Germany.

From the 13th to the 17th of August 2015, this event was the first one organized by MFG 5 after their move from Kiel to Nordholz in 2012.

A Mi-17 flown by the Latvian Air Force's Helikopteru Posms (Helicopter Squadron).
Helicopters of this small Air Force are rarely seen outside their home country, making this Mi-17 a welcome sight.

SAR meet

Search And Rescue (SAR) is a service provided by all member states of the United Nations and comprises the search for and the provision of aid to persons, aircraft, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. How this service has to be performed is laid down in documents published by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), two specialised bodies of the United Nations.

The implementation of those standardised rules and regulations, however, usually takes place at the national level, hence the existing differences in organisation, procedures and equipment. It is therefore of paramount importance for SAR units to become acquainted with the equipment, capabilities and operating procedures of other SAR providers.

This applies especially for SAR services of neighbouring countries as they have to be ready and able to work together in case of major accidents or disasters. That is why international SAR exercises and meetings are organised on a regular basis.

Helicopter Force

                  Participating units:

  Unit Type Country
  40 squadron  NH-90 NFH  Belgium
  Verbindungshubschrauberstaffel  Alouette 3 SA-316B  Austria
  Latvian air force, helicopter squadron  Mi-17-1V  Latvia
  771 Air Naval Squadron  Sea King  United Kingdom
  TrspHubschrRgt 10  Bell UH1D Germany
  TrspHubschrRgt 30  Bell UH1D Germany
  3.FlgStff LTGrp Holzdorf  CH-53 GA Germany
  IntHubschrAusbZ Bückeburg  EC135 Germany
  IntHubschrAusbZ Celle  BO 105 Germany
  RK Flugdienst / Appen  DO-28 Germany
  MFG 3  P3C Orion Germany
  MFG 3  DO-228 Germany
  MFG 5  Sea Lynx Mk88A Germany
  MFG 5  Sea King Mk41 Germany
  MFG 5  EC135 Germany
  DL Helicopter Technik GmbH  BK117 Germany

During the festivities of the media and family day, one of the Sea Kings of MFG 5 remained on standby. Reminding the visitors that the SAR mission is a 24/7 operation.

Helicopter Force


MFG 5 has been in the SAR business since 1958, although it must be said that SAR is not the units sole task. SAR started out in July 1958 on the Bristol Sycamore. These rather small machines gave way to the much larger Sikorsky H-34G from April 1963. The unit's current fleet of 21 Westland Sea King Mk.41 took over from the H-34G's during April 1975.

After the recent move from Kiel to Nordholz, MFG 5 became the operating organization of all the helicopters of the German Navy. It already operated twenty-one Westland Sea Kings (to become the 1st flying Staffel) and the twenty-two Westland Lynxes from MFG 3 (now 3rd flying Staffel of MFG 5) already stationed at Nordholz) were transferred to MFG 5. The fixed wing aircraft of the German Navy (P-3C Orion and Dornier 228) remain with MFG 3.

The Westland Sea King Mk.41 was introduced into service in 1975. The German Sea King Mk. 41 was the blueprint for all SAR Sea Kings used by RNoAF, BAF and even the No. 202 Squadron RAF. In 1987 a modernizing program was started to give the Sea King Mk.41 a limited offensive role.

After more than 40 years of operating the Sea King, the German Navy is hoping to introduce the its replacement in the form of the NH90 NFH. Entry into service is planned for 2018, so they can phase out the Westland Sea King Mk.41 by 2020. There is a need for 18 airframes but a decision has not been taken, although this was planned for the beginning of 2015.



The two Royal Navy UK Search and Rescues units, 771 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose and Gannet SAR Flight based at HMS Gannet, will finish their SAR duty on 2nd January 2016, ending the SAR role of the Sea King in the UK.


JAS 39 Gripen

The exercise

A typical SAR meet lasts just a few days and is not organized along a strict set of rules and procedures. During the exercise each unit is put to the test on various specific tasks. This can be a test for the pilots, to show their precision flying skills with the helicopter, for example during the winching contest, while the navigators need to accurately guide the pilots to an exact location at open sea or the isolated spots near the coast or overland, and the rescue divers/medics are put to the test during the survival test. Next to the test of the daily "routine" the SAR meet is also a social gathering. This year’s event sported the German version of the “highland games” and a social part on the rest day before the crews return home.

The event is not all about winning a trophy and at the end of the day most likely all teams will receive some kind of prize. MFG 5 decided this year not to reveal which team won overall, or part of the exercise. With 40 year old helicopters duelling with brand new ones stuffed with equipment, maybe the differences have become too big?

The comment made was “All participants had a lot of fun during the exercise while concentrating on the serious side of the event”. We think at least the Austrian crew should win the ‘longest trip’ for their 5 hour flight from Aigen in a fully packed Alouette III with a four man crew and equipment, requiring three refuellings on the way.

KARO Aviation would like to thank MFG-5
to thank you for the well-organized spotters day and the welcome reception we recieved.


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