The RAF Search and Rescue organisation was established formally in 1941 to aid all military aircrew in trouble over land or sea while training or on operations. By the end of World War II more than 8000 aircrew and 5000 civilians had been rescued. In the five decades since then more than 55,000 people have been rescued by the RAF, Royal Navy and HM Coastguard helicopter crews, and RAF Mountain Rescue Teams based around the UK, augmented sometimes by assistance from SAR assets operated by neighbouring countries, and by commercial and civilian operators.
Early on it became apparent that there was a need to coordinate and task search and rescue operations; this situation lead to the formation of the UK Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) which fulfilled international agreements for the provision of SAR under the ICAO. From 1941 until the end of 1997 there were two ARCCs, one at Plymouth and at Edinburgh, however, two were combined in 1997 at RAF Kinloss, where the ARCC is currently based.
Although originally established for the provision of SAR for military personnel, the ARCC today receives most of its requests for assistance from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Police forces and ambulance authorities, as well as being alerted by Air Traffic Control organisations. Today, the ARCC is the only organisation that may task an aeronautical SAR asset in the UK SAR Region. It co-ordinates an extensive list of activities associated with SAR operations, including overland search planning, refuelling arrangements, airspace considerations, multi-agency communications, and co-ordination with other emergency aircraft, ambulances, hospitals and so on.
Additionally, the ARCC embraces the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) which is the UK facility responsible for the detection and notification of emergency distress beacon alerts. The UKMCC operates within the Cospas-Sarsat framework and is able to detect beacon activations world wide through a network of satellites. The ARCC carries out its roles using an extensive array of communications and a highly capable IT-based Rescue Co-ordination System. The ARCC is extensively linked with other organisations and interacts closely with numerous emergency response groups and agencies across the UK and internationally. Annually, it receives more than 3600 requests for assistance, deploying assets on more than 2600 occasions and directly assisting over 2100 people.