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Coastline 'vulnerable' after after helicopter move

The RAF search and rescue helicopters flying out of Wattisham airfield in Suffolk have helped to save countless lives.

But from 2015 they will be no more. Instead a private firm will operate the service and the nearest base will be Kent.

The Government's signed a £1.6 billion deal, ending 70 years of search and rescue run by the RAF and Royal Navy and has handed the contract to the US based Bristow Group.

But as the coastguard stations at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Walton on the Naze in Essex both prepare for closure, there are concerns the move to relocate air support could leave our coastline vulnerable.

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RAF search and rescue service to be run by US firm

Sea King helicopter Credit: PA

The region's only search and rescue helicopter base - at Wattisham in Suffolk - is to be axed after the service was privatised.

Britain's search-and-rescue helicopter service, which employs the Duke of Cambridge, is to be run by Bristow Helicopters, the Government announced today.

The award of the £1.6 billion deal ends 70 years of a service run by the RAF and Royal Navy squadrons.

It also spells the end of the use of Sea King helicopters - flown by William - in search-and-rescue (SAR) work.

Under the new contract, 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK.

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Questions raised over future of RAF base

The future of the RAF base at Marham in Norfolk is being raised in Parliament.

Tornado warplanes are currently stationed there but they are due to be replaced by a new aircraft called the Joint Strike Fighter.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss is due to ask the Defence Secretary today for a commitment that Marham will remain open once the Tornado fleet is taken out of service and that the new JSF will be stationed there

An RAF helicopter has made a forced landing in Northamptonshire

An RAF helicopter has made a forced landing in Northamptonshire Credit: Steph and Nick Awbery

An RAF helicopter has made a forced landing in the village of Stanwick in Northamptonshire. The Merlin helicopter landed in a field just after six this evening, after the crew detected a fault.

The Ministry of Defence say the aircraft will stay there overnight until the problem can be investigated in the morning.

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