Helicopter crews hail new technology

COUNTLESS lives could be saved thanks to cutting edge technology being installed on RAF Search and Rescue helicopters in the region, it has been predicted.

By John Howard

COUNTLESS lives could be saved thanks to cutting edge technology being installed on RAF Search and Rescue helicopters in the region, it has been predicted.

The new equipment, which will be used by the Sea King helicopters flying from Wattisham Airfield, near Needham Market, was shown off for the first time yesterday .

Crews say it will significantly improve the ability of search and rescue teams to detect missing people in all weather conditions and has begun to enter service across the country's fleet of Sea Kings.


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SKMSS - Sea King Multi Sensor System - is an infra red system that works by detecting heat sources and displaying it on a dual monitor display inside the aircraft. It can detect a one degree centigrade temperature change.

The infra-red detection system has the ability to detect a person from more than one kilometre away, even in choppy or stormy seas.

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Flt Left Olly Padbury, a pilot based at Wattisham, said: "This will save lives, will make a real difference to our operations.

"Before we had to crawl across the ground using lights on the aircraft or night vision goggles, although the problem was everything looked green and people did not stand out from the foliage. This kit will pick up on people's temperature.

"I personally think this is one of the biggest advances in airborne search and rescue since the invention of the helicopter.''

Search and rescue commander RAF Group Captain Jim Goodbourn added: "RAF search and rescue helicopters perform hundreds of rescue operations in and around British coastlines and remote areas every year.

"This new system, which is at the cutting edge of modern infra-red technology, will greatly enhance the capability of the helicopters by allowing them to locate and rescue people in danger much quicker than before.

"This has obvious benefits – the helicopters and their crew can carry out their missions more efficiently and effectively, but most importantly, we have a greater chance of saving the lives of those who need us most."

The £10 million SKMSS system comprises a thermal imaging camera mounted alongside a daylight TV camera in a turret. The turret is mounted on the side of the lower hull of the Sea King and feeds pictures into the cabin where it is displayed and recorded by an airborne video recorder.

Procurement Minister Lord Bach said: The installation of these advanced new sensors will give the Royal Air Force's search and rescue crews a hugely enhanced capability, which will undoubtedly help save lives.''

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