103 Search and Rescue Squadron

103 Search and Rescue Squadron

103 Search and Rescue Squadron of the Canadian Forces Air Command currently operates the CH-149 Cormorant from CFB Gander, Newfoundland.


103 Search and Rescue Flight was formed at RCAF Station Shearwater on April 1, 1947. It moved to RCAF Station Greenwood that same year where it remained until three years later when it was renamed 103 Rescue Unit (RU). While at Greenwood, 103 RU adopted an image of "Albert" (a Saint Bernard rescue dog) for its crest. 103 RU also took on the motto "Seek and Save" to symbolize its search and rescue role.

103 RU moved to RCAF Station Summerside where it remained until unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968 when it was disbanded. The remnants of 103 RU formed the new 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron at CFB Summerside.

Canada ratified UNCLOS III (1973-1982) during the mid-1970s and declared a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone off its shores in 1977, creating an enormous new area of ocean responsibility for search and rescue. That year saw the 103 RU reactivated at the strategically situated Gander International Airport to meet the unique search and rescue demands of the western North Atlantic. Canada has been given responsibility for air/marine SAR operations west of 30ºW and north of 40ºN off the coast of Newfoundland.

At the time of its reactivation, 103 RU was equipped with the CH-113 Labrador twin-rotor helicopter and was stationed in a permanent hangar constructed on the grounds of the airport in 1977 at a Canadian Forces Station named CFS Gander.

During the 1980s, CFS Gander was redesignated a Canadian Forces Base and renamed CFB Gander. During the 1990s, the primary lodger unit at the base became 9 Wing, with its sole sub-unit being 103 RU.

In March 1997 the 103 RU was granted squadron status and renamed 103 Search and Rescue Squadron. In June 1997, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip presented the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron with its Standard.

Current role

Today, 103 Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron is charged with providing a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year search and rescue capability to the Halifax Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). The Squadron is responsible for a massive area, covering the lower Arctic, the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador and all offshore waters in the region.

Considering that the number of SAR cases in the Newfoundland Region, which are actual distress cases, is twice the national average, 103 Squadron is kept very busy.

Given 103's proximity to major fishing grounds and shipping routes, it isn't surprising that the majority of its missions are marine-based. SAR crews routinely find vessels in distress, overdue boats and sick or injured seamen. Crews can easily find themselves nearly 200 miles offshore and with the introduction of Hibernia, a refuelling site at an oil production platform, the potential to go even further out to sea has proven very much a reality.

"Outcasts," the name affectionately given to the personnel of 103 Squadron, perform a variety of tasks to keep the Squadron up and running, including flying the helicopters, maintaining and servicing the Aircraft as well as administering and supporting the Squadron.

Its approximately fifty military personnel and twenty-six civilian employees operate three CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.

The CH-149 Cormorant can carry 12 stretchers or a load of 5,000 kg. Its ice protection system allows it to operate in continuous icing conditions. The Cormorant routinely conducts rescues that would have been impossible for its predecessor, the CH-113 Labrador.

External links

* [http://www.airforce.forces.ca/9wing/squadron/103_e.asp Official web site]

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