The RAF's last search and rescue unit marks 50 years of helicopter ops

Babak Taghvaee explores the past and present of the RAF’s sole remaining search-and-rescue unit, as it celebrates a momentous milestone this year. 

On January 17, 2022, the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) No 84 Squadron ‘Scorpions’ celebrated the 50th anniversary of its rotorcraft operations at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The unit – which currently operates three Bell Griffin HAR2 helicopters – is the RAF’s only remaining search-and-rescue (SAR) unit. For half a century, the squadron has been a key asset of the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) in Cyprus. It has saved the lives of hundreds and has extinguished tens of wildfires.

Griffin
The RAF is slowly phasing out its Griffin HAR2 fleet, with just three examples remaining under No 84 Squadron’s charge at RAF Akrotiri. MOD Crown Copyright/Cpl Phil Dye

The squadron is the only RAF unit that has been based overseas for almost its entire history. It was originally formed on February 16, 1917, as a training squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, operating Avro 504Ks and Curtiss JNs in East Boldre (Beaulieu), Hampshire, UK, before moving to France in September that year.

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