International SAR Meet 2016

Koksijde Air Base, Belgium    

Running from the 10th-14th October, aircraft and aircrew from four nations gathered to share new developments, procedures and international co-operation with regards to search and rescue (SAR) operations at the International SAR Meet 2016.  Members of the AIA team travelled across the Channel to attend the Spotters Day to get a feel for what the exercise entailed.

Occurring on the outskirts of the Belgian Coastal town of Koksijde, 2016 marked the 9th edition of the exercise which this year was hosted by 40 Squadron of the Belgian Air Force. Koksijde Air Base is home of 40Sqn who operate the Westland Sea King Mk.48, Aérospatiale Alouette III and NH Industries NH-90 NFH within the Belgian Air Force and examples of each participated.

Traditionally, the exercise passes through three stages.  Stage one is the navigational challenge where the aim is to correctly plot an exact time overflying three waypoints; here crews are given very little planning time and forbidden the use of electronic aids, they must rely only on maps and manual instruments.  Stage two is a hover and winching challenge; for this crews must hover a course between two markers having winched down a rope and basket, it cannot touch the ground and must not exceed a pre-determined height.  The third and final stage is precision landings where crews must reach a location within five minutes of departure.  Upon reaching the location they must land as close to the specified position where first contact with the ground will be recorded.  At the end of the week long exercise which includes many social and teambuilding challenges, the crew scoring the highest points are announced the winner.

For 2016, the Belgian Sea King crew of 40 Squadron topped the leader board; they will now hold onto the coveted SAR Meet trophy until next year when the exercise returns at Nordholz Naval Air Station, Germany hosted by MFG 5.

Aircraft Involved:

  • Belgian Air Force - Westland Sea King Mk.48 - RS05 - 40 Squadron, Koksijde Air Base
  • Belgian Air Force - Aérospatiale Alouette III - M-3 - 40 Squadron, Koksijde Air Base
  • Belgian Air Force - NH Industries NH-90 NFH - RN-02 - 40 Squadron, Koksijde Air Base
  • German Navy - Westland Sea King Mk.41 - 89+50 - MFG 5, Nordholz Naval Air Station
  • Austrian Air Force - Aérospatiale Alouette III - 3E-KA - VeHSSta, Fiala-Fernbrugg Air Base

Extended Crew Involvement:

  • Portuguese Air Force - Esq.751 - Montijo Air Base

Aviation in Action would like to extend our thanks to the following for their assistance in making this article possible:

  • Warrant Officer (Adjudant/Adjt.) Jozef Vanden Broeck - Belgian Air Force Public Relations
  • The Belgian Air Force
  • The Personnel of 1 Wing, Koksijde Air Base
  • The crews of 40Sqn (BAF), MFG5 (GN), VeHSSta (AusAF) and Esq.751 (FAP)



Credits: Article and photography by Darren Willmin