End of line for helicopters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 1997, 12:00am

British helicopters will no longer be used for anti-smuggling operations after the RAF leaves Hong Kong early next month.

The six Wessex helicopters of the RAF will be replaced by at least one, probably two, Westland Sea King aircraft being brought by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Chatham.

But the Sea Kings are expected to be used mainly for flying people around rather than on other military operations.

The ageing Wessex aircraft have been regularly used as part of the anti-smuggling task force to fly personnel to remote observation posts. Though the British forces will continue to support the police in their battle against smugglers, the new helicopters will not be used.

A Garrison spokesman said the Sea Kings would be available to assist rescue work. One of the aircraft's main roles in the Royal Navy is in search and rescue.

A Government spokeswoman said the sale of the Wessex helicopters to Uruguay would not affect the work of the anti-smuggling task force.

There were no plans to request help from the People's Liberation Army after the handover, she said. Helicopters from the Government Flying Service would help the task force when necessary.