As of 1 January 2015, the Defence organisation has taken its characteristic yellow AB-412 search-and-rescue helicopters out of service. These helicopters, which flew for Defence Helicopter Command, are to be disposed of. Consequently, 303 Squadron, stationed at Leeuwarden Air Base, will be disbanded in the near future.
During the course of 2014, the 3 Defence AB-412 helicopters were deployed over 230 times for carrying out medical transports and Search and Rescue (SAR) tasks for missing persons. In total, the 303 Squadron helicopters made almost 5,500 life-saving and emergency sorties. The AB-412s are being divested on account of the introduction of the new NH90 maritime helicopter.
Medical evacuations guaranteed
The Defence organisation became responsible for medical evacuations from the Frisian Wadden Islands because the surplus capability of AB-412 SAR helicopters offered the option of carrying out the evacuations without additional costs. This surplus capability will no longer be available after the AB-412s have been relinquished. The Defence organisation will nevertheless remain responsible for medical evacuations until an alternative has been found. In the coming period, 2 Cougar transport helicopters, belonging to 300 Squadron, will be deployed from Leeuwarden Air Base as a stopgap measure, allowing Defence to guarantee medical evacuations for the islands until another party is given the task.
Search and Rescue
Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen (NHV) will take over the AB-412s SAR tasks from New Year’s Day. These tasks usually involve searching for and rescuing persons missing at sea and carrying out evacuations on ships and oil rigs located in the North Sea. NHV has been carrying out nocturnal SAR operations for the Netherlands Defence organisation since July 2011. The AB-412 was not suitable for nocturnal operations on account of its lack of night-vision equipment.
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