Three Airbus Helicopters AS365N3+ Dauphin II in search and rescue (SAR) configuration were inducted into service with the Lithuanian Air Force (LAF) during a ceremony at Siauliai Air Base on January 14.
The helicopters will operate throughout the country, providing round-the-clock SAR services from SAR stations at Kaunas and Nemirseta.
They are replacing Mi-8s that were previously used in the role. In addition to their primary SAR mission, they will also be used for environmental monitoring and control, fire-fighting, patient transfers, organ transplant transport and emergency support for state and municipal authorities.
A contract for these helicopters, valued at approximately $72 million, had been signed with Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) on October 25, 2013. The first Dauphin arrived at Saiuliai on June 2, 2015, followed by the second in September and the third and final one in November. They commenced operational missions on January 11, after Lithuanian pilots, rescue workers and technicians had gone through a full training programme on the type, including use of a flight simulator.
The LAF has already flown the helicopters for more than 200 hours during pilot training, including specific SAR missions. They are equipped with forward looking infrared (FLIR), radar, searchlights, loud hailer, rescue hoist and stretchers, while also featuring a full glass cockpit and four-axis autopilot with SAR modes.
One of them was bought by the Ministry of Environment using European Union funding, but the other two were bought directly by the Ministry of Defence. Under a co-operation agreement with the Ministry of Environment, during the first five years of operation the LAF is committed to providing a minimum of 75 flight hours annually for environmental monitoring and control. Alan Warnes