Suffolk troops in Atlantic rescue bid

SUFFOLK-based airmen have joined an international rescue effort in the middle of the Atlantic.

Laurence Cawley

SUFFOLK-based airmen have joined an international rescue effort in the middle of the Atlantic.

A crew member on board the container ship “Pascha” has fallen seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention. The vessel is currently about 700 miles off the west coast of Ireland.

The ship's distance from land makes it impossible for the traditional sea rescue operations to reach so staff at both RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall have been called on to help.

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An RAF Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft launching from RAF Kinloss in Scotland is providing coordination for the airborne effort.

Two HH-60G helicopters with Para-rescuemen from the United States Air Force's 56th Rescue Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath will perform the actual rescue.

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But in order to get to the rescue site, the helicopters will need to refuel en route. The aircraft refueling the helicopters are MC-130Ps from the USAF's Air Force Special Operations Command's 352nd Special Operations Group, which is based at nearby RAF Mildenhall. This is an aircraft specially fitted to refuel helicopters, but its range requires that it refuel mid-flight as well, for this kind of long distance flight.

The 100th Air Refueling Squadron at RAF Mildenhall is launching a KC-135 to refuel the MC-130P, which will make the rescue possible.

Colonel Jay Silveria, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, of which the 56th Rescue Squadron is part, said: “We're working fast with our UK partners to try to get to this sailor in time to help.

“We have some of the best-trained crews in the air right now who are intent on getting this patient stabilized and to safety.”

The helicopters will take their patient to a location in Shannon, Ireland, where medical providers will be waiting to take him to a nearby hospital.

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