An RAF Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft has successfully deployed Search and Rescue equipment capable of sustaining up to 100 persons in distress at sea for up to three days.
In trials conducted off the Southwest coast, a Poseidon dropped a UNIPAC-III Search and Rescue kit from its weapons bay into the sea. The semi-rigid aerial delivery container activates when impacting the water to provide an inflatable life raft & survival equipment for survivors.
The survival aid kit includes food, water, and communications to support up to 20 persons for 72 hours. Up to five systems can be carried by Poseidon and delivered in a single air drop if required, supporting up to 100 survivors.
Air Commodore Hicks, Assistant Chief of Staff Capability Delivery Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance explained "As a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft, Poseidon has the sensors and equipment to search wide areas of the ocean quickly to locate those who may be in distress. The ability to deploy a kit which enables people to survive in a hostile environment until they can be rescued is a welcome addition to our core capabilities of long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
For the trial, a Poseidon flew from RAF Lossiemouth where engineers had loaded the equipment aboard the aircraft. The flight was flown by personnel from 206 and CXX Squadrons.
Wing Commander Livesey, Officer Commanding CXX Squadron said "Dropping stores takes considerable effort across the team, from storage, transport, loading, and preparation for flight. This ran very smoothly, and it was rewarding to see it culminating in a safe and effective despatch from the aircraft, adding yet another string to the Poseidon bow."
This trial proved the ability of UK Poseidon to organically deploy search and rescue equipment from the aircraft. Once additional activities have been completed, this will be added to the overall capability suite for the platform and declared for use by all Squadron crews; the anticipated timeline is April 23.
The nine-strong fleet of RAF Poseidon aircraft has already conducted search and rescue missions, but the new equipment enhances the ability to support long-range search and rescue and provide support to Royal Navy vessels including submarines. Importantly it will allow Poseidon to conduct the drop of search and rescue dinghies itself, rather than operate in tandem with others to do so.