SAR Meet


28 June 2008


At their Kiel Holtenau base in Northern Germany, the country's Marineflieger Geschwader 5 celebrated the unit's 50th anniversary in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role. The festivities included an meeting of various SAR helicopters from neighbouring countries. 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. In the near future the Sea King's tasks are to be taken over by the NHI NH.90 helicopter.

A proper celebration of a jubilee can not do without a properly adorned aeroplane or helicopter from the unit concerned and one can trust the Germans with their ability to design a good piece of aviation art. Sea King Mk.41 89+64 can be seen here taxiing back following one of its many displays during the SAR Meet Open Day on 29 June 2008.

The design consits of a blue sea beneath a black starry sky, superimposed on which is MFG 5's eagle badge.

Only flying participant during the SAR Meet Open Day was the aforementioned Sea King. Kiel-Holtenau's unique location along the shore of the Baltic provided some beautiful backdrops of sailing ships and more modern seagoing vessels as they made their way to and from the quaysides. The SAR Meet always coincides with the Kiel Week, an occasion which brings many sailing vessels to the city's harbour. In this image, a rescue diver leaves the Sea King to assist a person playing the part of someone in distress. After having been hoisted aboard, the " victim"  would be delivered to a rescue ship sailing nearby.


The remainder of the helicopters visiting Kiel-Holtenau were firmly ground bound however. To the left is Belgian Defence Force Sea King Mk.48 RS05, which since 1977 has been flying in the SAR role with the former Belgian Air Force's 40 squadron at Coxyde. Thus, the anniversary colourscheme dates back to 2001, as first Sea King deliveries were in 1976. It is intendced to replace the Sea Kings with the NHI NH.90.

Oldest user of the Westland built Sea King, after all a license built American Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, is Britain's Royal Navy. 771 sq from RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall sent ZA134 to Kiel to represent the UK in the 2008 SAR Meet. The helicopter to the right is a Sea King HU.5SAR variant.

The Royal Danish Air Force is now in the process of phasing out their Sikorsky S.61A-1's. Contrary to many reports, these helicopters should not be referred to as Sea Kings, as they have not been built to military standards. Their replacement, the EHI EH.101 is already in the process of being introduced, but servicability problems associated with introducing a new type into service as well as the British buying back six of the 14 helicopters on order for their own use means that the S.61's will have to serve a bit longer.

The Bell UH-1D is still being flown by Germany's Luftwaffe in the SAR role. In time, the new NH Industries NH.90 will take over from the trusty Huey. Like in the case of the Danish EH.101's however, the NH.90 is being plagued by development problems and production delays.

This picture gives a fine example of Kiel-Holtenau´s unique opportunities for static photography with the old UH-1 flanked by an even older sailing vessel just hunderds of yards away.

The Polish Navy flies a local product for SAR duties. The PZL W.3WARM SAR helicopter. The type flies with 2.elMW at Gdynia-Babie Doły. The type has been derived from the Mil Mi.2 which PZL built under license during the Cold War. Among all the elderly Sea Kings and such types as the S.61A, HH-3F, Mi.8 and UH-1D this was in fact the newest SAR helicopter on display.

A real Mil product was flown to Kiel-Holtenau by the Lithuanian Air Force's Sraigtasparniu Eskadrile (Helicopter Squadron) from Siauliai - Zokniai. This small Air Force from a country that once was part of the Soviet Union and which now forms part of NATO is still rarely seen in Western Europe, making the Mi.8T a very welcome visitor.

A further helicopter for SAR duties, the Italian Air Force's Agusta-Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican was also present at Kiel-Holtenau but due to its location amidst the crowd could not be photographed in an ideal way. However, the design makes a nice contrast with the Sikorsky/Westland Sea King family with which it shares a common heritage. The HH-3F is being flown by the Italian Air Force's 15 Stormo from Pratica di Mare on both normal SAR as well as Combat SAR roles.  

Granted, it has nothing to do with SAR, but still it deserves inclusion in this report if only for the the German Cougar's relative rarity on the air show circuit. The Eurocopter AS.532U-2 Cougar is used by the FBS BMVg  (Flugbereitschatsstaffel des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung, Liaison Squadron for the Defence Department) for various VIP transport duties. 

Kiel-Holtenau's SAR Meet Open Day, although plagued by bad weather initially, provided the opportunity to photograph helicopters of an interesting variety, in the one case of the German Sea King even in its nautical element. It remains to be seen however if a 55th anniversary of German SAR can be celebrated at this base, as rumours persist that the German Naval Aviation is to be concentrated at Nordholz which already houses the service's P-3C Orion patrol aircraft and Westland Sea Lynx shipborne helicopters. Time will tell whether the wonderful scenery around Kiel-Holtenau can be enjoyed again during the next SAR Meet.


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink