Royal Thai Air Force

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is one of the oldest air forces in Asia, being formed in 1913. Three Thai Army officers, who had been sent to France for pilot training, returned in November 1913 with eight military aircraft. This formed the basis for establishing the Siamese Flying Corps, which operated under Army control until 1937, when it became an independent service called the Royal Siam Air Force. Two years later the service was renamed the Royal Thai Air force.

Key Dates

28 Feb 1912    First Thai Army officers sent to France for pilot training
2 Nov 1913    Siamese Flying Corps first established
1919    Siamese Flying Corps renamed Royal Siamese Aeronautical Service
1937    Royal Siamese Aeronautical Service renamed Royal Siamese Air Force
1939    Royal Siamese Air Force renamed Royal Thai Air Force

Current Status

The Royal Thai Air Force is fully operational.

Future Plans

To be added.

Markings

National Insignia

To be added.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Since 1949, the RTAF has operated a sophisticated serial numbering system that describes the aircraft role, type, individual number and year of purchase. Full details are given on Steve Darke’s Thai-Aviation website – see link below. The number is displayed in Thai script in a relatively small font. In addition, aircraft often retain the serial number assigned by the previous operator, e.g. the US FMS serial.

Unit/Base Codes

Each RTAF aircraft carries an individual squadron code, in addition to the air force serial, which can be reused as aircraft are retired. For front-line aircraft the code is normally a five-digit number, while for second-line aircraft shorter numbers are often used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

The RTAF has its own aircraft designation system which is incorporated into the aircraft serial number, as mentioned above.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

To be added.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Don Muang Air Base, Bangkok.

Organisational Structure

The RTAF is organised into four Air Divisions, each comprising two or three Wings. Each Wing has between one and six Squadrons.

Current Order of Battle

Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle

To be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

To be added

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

See current order of battle.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

To be added.

More Information

Books

World Air Forces Directory 2013/14 by Ian Carroll (Mach III)

Magazines

World Air Power Journal Vo.8 p.145-146

Websites

Official Royal Thai Air Force website

wikipedia: Thai Air Force

Scramble: Thailand

Global Security: Royal Thai Air Force

Thai Aviation

Eritrean Air Force

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

Eritrean gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. During the independence war, a number of aircraft and helicopters were captured from Ethiopia. In 1994 an Eritrean Air Force was formally established. The first equipment comprised former Ethiopian Air Force aircraft. To enable a full range of operational capabilities, transport aircraft were obtained from China and training aircraft from Finland and Italy. Following the acquisition of Su-27s by Ethiopia in 1998, a batch of MiG-29s was delivered to maintain military parity.

Key Dates

1994    Eritrean Air Force first established

Current Status

The Eritrean Air Force is fully operational.

Future Plans

To be added.

Markings

National Insignia

To be added.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

The Eritrean Air Force serial numbering system normally consists of a three digit number plus the prefix ‘ERAF-‘ or ‘ER-‘. Trainer aircraft appear to carry no serial prefix. e.g. ER-102 for MiG-21, ERAF-301 for Mi-17 and 404 for MB339.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

To be added.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Asmara.

Organisational Structure

The ErAF is organised into 8 Squadrons of aircraft.

Current Order of Battle

Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle

To be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

1 Squadron
2 Squadron
3 Squadron
4 Squadron
5 Squadron
6 Squadron
7 Squadron
8 Squadron

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

See current order of battle.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

To be added.

More Information

Books

African Air Forces by Winston Brent (Freeworld Publications)

World Air Forces Directory 2013/14 by Ian Carroll (Mach III)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Pictures of the Eritrean Air Force

wikipedia: Eritrean Air Force

Scramble: Eritrea

South Sudan Air Force

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

South Sudan gained autonomy on 9 July 2005. Legislation to enable the creation of a South Sudan Air Force (SSAF) was approved in June 2008. The first aircraft was received in February 2010, and the first helicopters from an initial order for 10 was received in December 2010. Full independence from Sudan was achieved on 9 July 2011. Initially called the Sudan People’s Liberation Air Force, it appears to have become the Sudan People’s Air Force by 2010, and later assumed it’s present title.

Continued political instability in the country resulted in a civil war breaking out on 15 December 2015. The Air Force has been involved in supporting government forces in retaining control of most of the country.

Key Dates

24 June 2008    South Sudan Air Force formally created
Feb 2010    First fixed-wing aircraft received – Beech 1900
Dec 2010    First helicopters received – Mi-17

Current Status

The South Sudan Air Force is fully operational.

Future Plans

To be added.

Markings

National Insignia

The South Sudan Air Force uses a black-red-green roundel with a blue leading segment containing a yellow star. The national flag is used as a fin flash.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

SSAF helicopters carry serials consisting of a three digit number and the prefix ‘SPAF-‘ e.g. SPAF-106 for a Mil-17V-5. The Beech 1900 carried the last three letters of it’s civil registration.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

To be added.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Juba Air Base, Juba.

Organisational Structure

The SSAF is organised into a Helicopter Unit and a Fixed Wing Unit.

Current Order of Battle

Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle

To be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

Helicopter Unit
Fixed Wing Unit

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

All aircraft are based at Juba IAP.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

To be added.

More Information

Books

World Air Forces Directory 2013/14 by Ian Carroll (Mach III)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Southern Sudan’s new air force

wikipedia: South Sudan Air Force

Scramble: South Sudan

Katanga Government Aviation Unit

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The former Belgian Congo was given independence on 30 June 1960, amid a prolonged period of political and economic upheaval. Very shortly afterwards, the Province of Katanga declared unilateral independence from the newly established Republic of Congo. The breakaway province took over many of the assets of the former colonial policing air arm, the Aviation de la Force Publique du Congo, and formed a new air arm, the Katanga Air Force. A few AFP aircraft were also used to establish a Katanga Government Aviation Unit, for the transport of supplies and government officials. Several additional civil aircraft were later impressed into government service. This page covers the non-military transport aircraft used by the Katanga Government. Katanga Air Force aircraft are covered elsewhere.

After the Congo government received substantial outside help, the rebels were put on the defensive and the Katangan capital Elisabethville was captured by pro-government forces on 30 December 1962. On 21 January 1963, the last rebel stronghold of Kolwezi surrendered, formally ending the war.

Key Dates

11 July 1960    Katanga Government Aviation Unit created
21 Jan 1963    Katanga surrenders

Current Status

The Katanga Government Aviation Unit was disbanded in January 1963.

Future Plans

Not applicable.

Markings

Special Markings

No special markings were carried. Aircraft normally retained their previous colour scheme.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Katangan Government aircraft retained their previous registration, or used the unofficial registration prefix ‘KA’, e.g. Heron KA-TUR.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

A variety of semi-fictional airlines and aircraft operators were involved in smuggling weapons and equipment to the Katanga forces. These unofficial operations are not included here, only the officially operated aircraft.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

See individual aircraft histories.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Luano Airfield, Elisabethville.

Organisational Structure

Katanga Government Aviation was an ad-hoc entity that operated without much central organisation or structure. There were no subordinate units.

Current Order of Battle

Not applicable.

Historical Orders of Battle

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

The main air base was Luano, but Kolwezi, Jadotville, Kisenge, Dilolo and Kipushi were also used.

More Information

Books

African Military Aviation by Winston A. Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1994)

African Air Forces by Winston Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1999)

Air Wars and Aircraft by Victor Flintham (Arms and Armour Press, 1989)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

To be added.

Katanga Air Force

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The former Belgian Congo was given independence on 30 June 1960, amid a prolonged period of political and economic upheaval. Very shortly afterwards, the Province of Katanga declared unilateral independence from the newly established Republic of Congo. The breakaway province was fortunate in having many of the assets of the former colonial policing air arm, the Aviation de la Force Publique du Congo. All AFP aircraft in Katanga were immediately seized and used to form a new air arm, the Katanga Air Force, or Avikat for short. Additional aircraft were later obtained via a variety of legal and illegal means.

The Congo government successfully appealed from help from the United Nations, and a civil war followed, which saw the Katanga Air Force operate extensively in direct support of the rebel ground forces. The United Nations air and ground forces eventually proved decisive, with the Katangan capital Elisabethville being captured on 30 December 1962 and the remnants of the Katangan forces being rounded up soon after. On 21 January 1963, the last stronghold of Kolwezi surrended, formally ending the war.

Key Dates

11 July 1960    Katanga Air Force created
6 Jan 1963    Avikat disbanded

Current Status

The Katanga Air Force was disbanded in January 1963.

Future Plans

Not applicable.

Markings

National Insignia

The Katanga Air Force used a red-green-white roundel.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Katanga Air Force aircraft carried numerical serial prefixed by the letters KAT or KA, e.g. Piper PA-22 KAT-72.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

To be added.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

See individual aircraft histories.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Luano Airfield, Elisabethville.

Organisational Structure

To be added.

Current Order of Battle

Not applicable.

Historical Orders of Battle

Order of Battle for 1960
Order of Battle for 1961
Order of Battle for late 1962

All-Time Flying Units List

To be added.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

The main air base was Luano, but Kolwezi, Jadotville, Kisenge, Dilolo and Kipushi were also used.

To be added.

More Information

Books

African Military Aviation by Winston A. Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1994)

African Air Forces by Winston Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1999)

Air Wars and Aircraft by Victor Flintham (Arms and Armour Press, 1989)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

wikipedia: Katangese Air Force

Katangan Air Force

Biafran Government Aviation Unit

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The Eastern Region of Nigeria announced its secession as the State of Biafra on 30 May 1967. Having no existing air transport, the Biafran Government was forced to obtain aircraft from abroad. These aircraft were delivered via a variety of legal and illegal means. During the civil war that erupted in July 1967, Biafran Government aircraft operated extensively, carrying equipment and personnel both within the country and importing equipment from abroad. This page covers the non-military transport aircraft used by the Biafran Government. Biafran Air Force aircraft are covered elsewhere.

In December 1969 Nigerian Federal forces launched a final offensive and Biafra surrendered in January 1970. Most airworthy aircraft fled abroad at this time.

Key Dates

July 1967    First aircraft obtained
July 1967    Biafran Government Aviation Unit created
13 Jan 1970    Biafra surrenders

Current Status

The Biafran Government Aviation Unit was disbanded in January 1970.

Future Plans

Not applicable.

Markings

Special Markings

No special markings were carried. Aircraft normally retained their previous colour scheme.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Biafran Government aircraft retained their previous registration, or used fictional registrations from neighbouring countries, e.g. L-1049 Constellation 5N-07G.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

A variety of semi-fictional airlines and aircraft operators were involved in smuggling weapons and equipment to the Biafran forces. These unofficial operations are not included here, only the officially operated aircraft.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

See individual aircraft histories.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Biafran Government Aviation was initially centred at Enugu.

Organisational Structure

Biafran Government Aviation was an ad-hoc entity that operated without much central organisation or structure. There were no subordinate units.

Current Order of Battle

Not applicable.

Historical Orders of Battle

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

The main air base was Enugu, but Port Harcourt, Orlu and Uli were also used.

More Information

Books

African Military Aviation by Winston A. Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1994)

African Air Forces by Winston Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1999)

Air Wars and Aircraft by Victor Flintham (Arms and Armour Press, 1989)

Shadows: Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 1967-1970 by Micheal I Draper (Hikoki Publications, 1999)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

wikipedia: Biafra – Military

Biafra 1966

Biafran Air Force

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The Eastern Region of Nigeria announced its secession as the State of Biafra on 30 May 1967. Having no existing air power, the Biafran Air Force was hastily assembled from a number of aircraft and personnel obtained from abroad. The aircraft were delivered via a variety of legal and illegal means. The Nigerian Army attacked Biafra in July, but Biafran forces counter-attacked and were able to expand their territory. A civil war followed, which saw the Biafran Air Force operate extensively in support of ground forces.

Both the Biafran and Nigerian air forces saw significant expansion during the civil war. Biafra obtained several AT-6s and famously about a dozen MFI-9 ‘Minicons’ for light attack duties, but the Nigerians introduced MiG-17s and Il-28s. In December 1969 Nigerian Federal forces launched a final offensive and Biafra surrendered in January 1970. Most airworthy aircraft fled abroad.

Key Dates

23 Apr 1967    First aircraft obtained – a formerly hijacked F27
July 1967    Biafran Air Force created
13 Jan 1970    Biafra surrenders

Current Status

The Biafran Air Force was disbanded in January 1970.

Future Plans

Not applicable.

Markings

National Insignia

The red-black-green Biafran roundel was rarely carried.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Biafran Air Force aircraft either retained there previous registration or serial, or operated without any external identity markings, e.g. T-6 14810.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

Several aircraft were obtained clandestinely for Biafra, but didn’t manage to complete the delivery flight. These included two Meteor NF.14 night fighters and five Fouga Magisters.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

See individual aircraft histories.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

The BAF headquarters moved several times due to the course of the civil war. The initial location was Enugu.

Organisational Structure

The BAF was initially without much organisational structure, but by 1969 consisted of a Training Command and a Tactical Air Command. The units of the former are unknown. The latter had up to three squadrons.

Current Order of Battle

Not applicable.

Historical Orders of Battle

Order of Battle for late 1967
Order of Battle for mid 1968
Order of Battle for late 1969

All-Time Flying Units List

42 Squadron
45 Squadron
47 Squadron
? units flying the B-25, B-26, C-47 etc.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

The main air base was Enugu, but Port Harcourt, Orlu and Uli were also used.

To be added.

More Information

Books

African Military Aviation by Winston A. Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1994)

African Air Forces by Winston Brent (Freeworld Publications, 1999)

Air Wars and Aircraft by Victor Flintham (Arms and Armour Press, 1989)

Shadows: Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 1967-1970 by Micheal I Draper (Hikoki Publications, 1999)

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Biafran Invaders

wikipedia: Biafra – Military

MFI och Biafra – 7

Royal Saudi Land Forces

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) is the oldest branch of the Saudi military, being formed in 1902 at the start of the War of Unification of Saudi Arabia. The Army was modernised to keep pace with military developments in the following decades. In 1988 (1986?) a plan to establish an Aviation branch was approved and the first helicopters joined the RSLF Aviation Command in 1990. An airborne attack capability was added in 1992, with the arrival of AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Key Dates

13 Jan 1902    Royal Saudi Land Forces first established
1988?    RSLF Aviation Command created
1990    First helicopters received – Bell 406CS

Current Status

The Aviation Command is fully operational.

Future Plans

To be added.

Markings

National Insignia

Current — Historical

Aircraft Serial Numbers

The Saudi Army serial numbering system consists of a three digit number (Bell 406CS and Schweizer 330) or a five digit mumber (S-70/UH-60 and AH-64), e.g. 844 for Bell 406CS and 27181 for UH-60L.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

False reports of aircraft on order or in service

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Airport Rd, Riyadh 11165.

Organisational Structure

The RSLFAC is organised into two Aviation Battalions and one Aviation Group.

Current Order of Battle

Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle

To be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

1st Aviation Battalion
2nd Aviation Battalion
3rd Aviation Group

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

The main air base is Hafr Al Batin at King Khalid Military City.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As above.

More Information

Books

Saudi Military Aviation Bibliography – to be added.

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Official RSLF website

wikipedia: Saudi Arabian Army

Scramble: Saudi Arabia

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) was first formed in 1994 by two ex-USAF pilots, who saw an opportunity for commercial tactical flight services to fill the gaps left by the disbandment of several USAF and USN Aggressor Squadrons during the defence cuts of the 1990s. The first aircraft, two SAAB 35 Drakens, were obtained in 1997, and the first training operations were conducted under contracts from the US Navy.

The fleet was considerably expanded in 2002 with the acquisition of half a dozen IAI Kfirs retired from the Israeli Air Force. In 2004 the company added the capability of using electronic jamming systems as part of the training. A number of A-4 Skyhawks were added to the fleet, some company-owned and others obtained on lease. A significant change to the fleet was the introduction of more than a dozen ex-Swiss Air Force Hawker Hunters. Fast, agile and very reliable the Hunter soon became the backbone of the training fleet. In September 2011 the company was awarded a contract to support the training of Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) personnel – known in other countries as Forward Air Controllers – for the USAFE in Germany. The Skyhawks were retired in 2012 and replaced by a couple of Aero L-39 Albatros trainers.

By 2016 the market for commercial tactical air training market was quite well established, and continuing to expand. In July 2016 ATAC was acquired by Textron Inc, the company that owns Beechcraft and Cessna, with a view to developing further opportunities in this market.

Key Dates

1994    Airborne Tactical advantage Company first formed
1997    First aircraft enter service – two SAAB 35 Drakens
2002    Fleet bolstered by ex-Israeli AF IAI Kfirs
29 Sep 2011    ATAC wins 4-year USAFE JTAC contract in Germany
2016    ATAC is aquired by Textron Corporation

Current Status

ATAC provides outsourced civilian tactical airborne training services. These include air-to-air aggressor training services, air-to-ship crew preparedness training, and air-to-ground Forward Air Controller training.

Future Plans

None known.

Markings

Special Markings

Apart from the Drakens, aircraft operated by ATAC generally carry a two or three-tone camouflage paint scheme, with the ATAC logo on the fin in black. The Drakens retained their RDanAF gloss dark green finish.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Aircraft operated by ATAC carry United States civil aircraft registrations, eg. Hawker Hunter N321AX.

Fleet List

All-Time List of Serials/Registrations

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Aircraft Type Total Del’d Total Active Still on Order Role
Aero L-39 Albatros 2 2 0 Tactical Training
Hawker Hunter Mk.58 16 11 0 Tactical Training
IAI Kfir 6 5 0 Tactical Training

All-Time Aircraft Used List

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Aero L-39ZA Albatros 2 2012 current ?
Hawker Hunter Mk.58 15 2007 current Swiss AF
Hawker Hunter FGA.74 1 ? current UK
IAI Kfir C2 6 2002 current Israeli AF
Douglas A-4C Skyhawk 1 ? 2012 US Navy
Douglas A-4L Skyhawk 5 ? 2012 US Navy
Douglas A-4N Skyhawk 3 2008 2012 leased
Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk 1 ? 2012 US Navy
SAAB 35 Draken 2 1997 ? RDanAF

Aircraft NOT Used

No false allocations known.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

One Kfir and two Hunters have been lost in accidents.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, 1001 Providence Blvd Newport News, VA 23602, USA.

Organisational Structure

The company does not have any sub-units.

Current Unit Assignments

Not applicable.

Historical Unit Assignments

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

The main air base is NAS Point Magu, CA, but four other bases are regularly used inside and outside of the continental United States to deliver contracted services.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

See above.

More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

wikipedia: Airborne Tactical Advantage Company

Official ATAC Website

Facebook: Airborne Tactical Advantage Company

Outsourced Flight Support

On the ATAC!

H.M. Coastguard

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

Her Majesty’s Coastguard or, more commonly, H.M. Coastguard, is a division of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT). It’s main duties are coastal surveillance and pollution patrol. Aircraft are supplied and operated by civilian contractors.

The Coast Guard was first established in 1822, primarily as an anti-smuggling force. It also had the secondary duties of safeguarding shipwrecks and life saving. The growing influence of the Royal Navy within the service resulted in the Coast Guard being placed under the control of the Admiralty in October 1856. Thereafter, the service also performed a formal role as a naval reserve force. By the early 1900s the anti-smuggling role had greatly diminished and the Admiralty was proposing to drastically scale-down the Coast Guard. This was opposed by the public, the Board of Customs and the Board of Trade, who championed the need for life saving and revenue protection.

After a major inquiry, in 1923 the service was placed under the Board of Trade and specifically tasked with marine safety and life saving. This was confirmed by the Coastguard Act of 1925, which formally defined it’s roles and powers. This act also introduced the ‘Coastguard’ title as one word instead of two words.

After using military helicopters for urgent marine rescues since the 1940s, in 1983 the first dedicated Coastguard helicopters were obtained from a private contractor. These helicopters operated off the coast of Scotland, filling the gap where the normal military Search and Rescue (SAR) service seen in the rest of the UK was not available. This service became known as the UK Gap SAR service. Fixed-wing aircraft were also contracted for pollution control work. In 1994 the Coastguard service became a Government Agency and in 1998 the Marine Safety Agency was combined with the Coastguard Agency to form the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The success of the Scottish operations lead to similar contractor-operated SAR services at two locations on the south coast of England.

After awarding a new SAR helicopter contract to CHC Scotia on 13 December 2005, the Coastguard took delivery of four new Sikorsky S-92 and three new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters to replace the ageing Sikorsky S-61Ns then in service at the four contractor-operated SAR bases. The five year contract ran from 1 July 2007 until 2012. Plans were announced in May 2006 for the merger of UK military and civil SAR helicopter provision from 2012, under a single civilian contractor. This target date was later moved to 2015. In 2012 Bristow Helicopters won the UK Gap SAR contract and took over operations from CHC in 2013. In March 2013 Bristow also won the new UK-wide SAR contract, committing to operate two helicopters each from 10 bases around the British Isles from 2015 onwards. The bases were to be operational 24 hours a day. Seven of these bases were new to contractor SAR operations and required significant infrastructure investment before operational flying could commence. Bristows ordered 11 Sikorsky S-92s and 11 AgustaWestland AW189s to provide this service. Unfortunately, the bad weather certification of the AW189 was delayed, and some AW139s and additional S-92s had to be drafted in, to provide temporary cover until full certification was received. Validation of the full-ice protection system on the AW189 was achieved in June 2016, allowing entry into service to commence. The complete SAR service is expected to be fully operational by mid 2017.

Key Dates

15 Jan 1822    Coast Guard first established by Board of Customs
Oct 1856    Control of the Coast Guard passed to the Admiralty
1923    Coast Guard placed under the Board of Trade, specifically dedicated to marine safety and life saving
1925    Coastguard Act passed, formally defining it’s powers and responsibilities
1983    First dedicated Coastguard helicopters obtained
April 1994    Coastguard Agency formed
1 April 1998    Marine Safety Agency and Coastguard Agency combined to form Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
13 Dec 2005    CHC Scotia wins UK Gap SAR contract
2012    Bristow wins UK Gap SAR contract
Mar 2013    Bristow wins 10-year UK SAR contract to replace all military SAR services
29 June 2016    AW189 fully certificated for SAR operations

Current Status

Bristow has commenced operations at all ten SAR locations required under the 2013 UK SAR contract. The full service will be available in mid-2017.

Future Plans

Take delivery of 11 AgustaWestland AW189 helicopters by mid 2017, to replace the AW139s and S-92s used pending full AW189 certification.

Markings

Special Markings

No national markings are carried. The service titles HM COASTGUARD or COASTGUARD RESCUE are displayed on the fuselage sides of aircraft and helicopters. Some anti-pollution spraying aircraft carry POLLUTION CONTROL titles.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

All aircraft and helicopters carry civil registrations. Recent helicopters have been assigned registrations in the G-HMCx sequence.

Unit/Base Codes

Unit coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designation used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Click on aircraft type for more details
Aircraft Type Total
Del'd
Total
Now
Still On
Order
Role
AgustaWestland AW139330Search and Rescue
AgustaWestland AW1891147Search and Rescue
Cessna 404 Titan II220Pollution Control
Cessna F406 Caravan II220Pollution Control
Lockheed L-188 Electra220Pollution Control
Sikorsky S-9218110Search and Rescue

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

No false reports known.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

MCA Headquarters, Bay 3/25 Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1EG.

Organisational Structure

The aviation units of the MCA come under of the Directorate of Operations (DO), which is split into a number of Branches looking after Counter Pollution, Search and Rescue, Ship Inspection and Law Enforcement. Coastguard SAR helicopters are currently based at eleven different locations in the UK, but Portland will close in 2017. Fixed-wing pollution control aircraft are based either at the contractors home airfield, or at Inverness in Scotland.

Current Unit Assignments

Table of Current Unit Assignments

Historical Unit Assignments

Table of Unit Assignments for 2000
Table of Unit Assignments for 2007

All-Time Flying Units List

Dover Surveillance
Pollution Control North
Pollution Control South
Counter Pollution Unit
Caernarfon
Humberside
Inverness
Lee-on-Solent
Lydd
Newquay
Portland
Prestwick
St Athan
Stornoway
Sumburgh

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

See current unit allocation table.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As for current bases plus Southend (Essex) and Manston (Kent).

More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

wikipedia: Her Majesty’s Coastguard

Bristow Helicopters: UK SAR

RVL Group

S-61 in HM Coastguard

helis.com: hm coastguard