The Ministry of Defence has announced plans for two helicopters to be based on Portland to train German navy pilots for search and rescue operations. 

The two Sea King Mk5 helicopters are set to be re-deployed to carry out search and rescue training operations solely for the Royal Navy. The helicopters were previously used by 771 Naval Air Squadron in rescue missions in Cornwall.

Both helicopters, painted in a distinctive red and grey paint scheme, were retired from service in April 2016. 

In a statement, the Royal Navy said that the helicopters will ‘once again have a life-saving role'.

The aircraft will now be leased to HeliOperations – a company supplying trained helicopter personnel to companies worldwide – to train German Navy pilots for search and rescue operations.

The Sea Kings will be retained as military aircraft, but will be operated from Portland’s training base at Osprey Quay until September 2018. 

Ownership of the base was transferred from Coastguard Heliport to HeliOperations on July 1 this year after a high profile campaign to keep the coastguard rescue service, backed by South Dorset MP Richard Drax.

It will remain a refuelling facility for coastguard helicopters flying from Lee on Solent in Hampshire, Llyd in Wales, and Newquay in Cornwall.

Portland town councillor Sandy West, who was active in the campaign, said the Navy aircraft will receive ‘a great Portland welcome’. 

She said: “I think it’s good that what is down there will be utilised, it’ll never be the same without our search and rescue but it’ll be good to see the Sea Kings there. 

“It’s the start of a business which will hopefully be the start of some local employment too.

“All of Portland welcomes them, and I wish the company well.” 

Maintenance activity is being carried out at RNAS Culdrose to bring the aircraft back into service. The first aircraft is scheduled to commence its flight test phase soon.