This marked the end of search and rescue service at the island base by the RAF for 60 years. In 2011, the Government announced that the future search and rescue service would be provided by a fully civilian aircrew adding that the retirement of the Sea King helicopters would take place in March, 2016. The RAF and the Royal Navy operated eight search and rescue bases.
In March, 2013, the Department of Transport signed the 10-year £1.6bn contract with the American-owned Bristow Helicopters Ltd to operate from 10 UK bases on behalf of HM Coastguard.
The Coastguard has operated four search and rescue bases at Lee-on-Solent, Portland, Sumburgh and Stornoway. The first of the new Bristow bases to become operational was at Humberside Airport, near Immingham, and at Inverness on Apr 1; the base at London Ashford Airport, Lydd, Kent, became operational on the same day as the one at Caernarfon; from Oct 1, the base at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan becomes operational; Prestwick and Newquay will follow on Jan 1, 2016; with the remaining three bases at Lee-on-Solent, Sumburgh and Stornoway in 2017.
In North Wales, the familiar yellow Sea Kings have been replaced by the larger Westland-Augusta Sikorsky S-92 helicopters, painted red and white.