HMS Gannet

HMS Gannet

HMS Gannet's helicopters are scrambled every day of the year – twice on many – saving lives from Northern Ireland to Edinburgh, the Isle of Man and Lake District to the slopes of Ben Nevis.

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This means that the small team at HMS Gannet cover an area of 98,000 square miles (12 times the size of Wales...) with just three Sea King helicopters.

The men and women of HMS Gannet have won countless awards for bravery over the past 40 years and received hundreds of heartfelt letters of thanks from people they have helped.

Although a naval unit, the bulk of their time is spent over the mountains of western Scotland helping climbers in difficulty: two out of three call-outs are concentrated on these ‘dry jobs’.

820 Naval Air Squadron head North


HMS Gannet Latest News

End of SAR Gala Dinner

End of SAR Gala Dinner

HMS Gannet decommissions

Last piece of an emotional jigsaw as HMS Gannet decommissions

See all news for HMS Gannet

Current operation Search and Rescue - UK

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm provide Search and Rescue cover to large sections of the United Kingdom coastline, 24 hours a day and 365 days per year, typically at 15 minutes notice. Based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and HMS Gannet, Prestwick, in Scotland, Royal Navy helicopters are constantly available and fly missions that are as varied as they are far-reaching.

Location Search and Rescue - Northern region

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Unit History

The line begins...1800

The line begins in 1800 with a sloop which saw action in the North Sea and Baltic during the Napoleonic Wars. Gannets 2 and 3, both sloops, served in the mid-19th Century.

The fourth Gannet1878

The fourth Gannet is undoubtedly the most famous; an 1878 barque which saw action against the Mahdi’s forces in the Sudan campaigns. She is now preserved in Chatham.

China Station1927

Gannet 5 and 6 were a tender and gunboat respectively. No.7 too was a gunboat, serving on the China Station from the late 1920s until she was transferred to the Chinese Navy in 1942.

Fleet Air Arm1943

The FAA ties with Gannet began in 1943 when the RAF airfield at Eglinton in Northern Ireland transferred to RN control. The air station continued to serve the FAA until closed in 1959.


The current unit traces its history back to 1971 when the ninth Gannet was commissioned at Prestwick Airport. Its focus then was not saving lives but hunting Soviet submarines.

Anti submarine2001

Three squadrons of anti-submarine specialists have called Gannet their home: the Flying Tigers of 814 NAS, 824 NAS and 819 NAS. The latter were the last to leave, decommissioning in 2001.

Search and Rescue2009

Fifteen years ago, the Sea Kings were scrambled once every two days on average. By 2009, the helicopters were flying nearly 450 missions every year.

Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers Future

An island nation needs a powerful navy. A simple fact, often forgotten. Go behind the scenes of the new aircraft carrier and discover its true scale and ambition.

Read about the new carrier


In 2013 HMS Gannet was the second busiest Search and Rescue unit in the UK