56th Rescue Squadron

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56th Rescue Squadron
56th Rescue Squadron.jpg
56th Rescue Squadron Patch
Active 14 November 1952 – 18 March 1960
8 July 1972 – 15 October 1975
1 May 1988 - Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Search and Rescue
Part of United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa
Third Air Force
48th Fighter Wing
48th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ RAF Lakenheath
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm

The 56th Rescue Squadron (56 RQS) is part of the 48th Operations Group, 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England. It operates HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters conducting search and rescue missions. It will relocation to Aviano Air Base, Italy starting in 2017.[1]


The 56th Rescue Squadron is a combat-ready search and rescue squadron of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters capable of executing all-weather search and rescue missions day or night in hostile environments in support of USAFE, USEUCOM, and NATO operations. It employs a state-of-the-art communications and navigation system along with advanced search and rescue equipment. The squadron is capable of deploying to any theater of operations in the world.


The 56th flew search and rescue, and medical evacuation, in North Africa and southern Europe from, November 1952-March 1960. It flew combat missions in Southeast Asia from, 10 July 1972 – 15 August 1973, to include search and rescue, airborne mission control, and aerial refueling. The squadron continued to perform local search and rescue until February 1975.

It flew search and rescue support to the Iceland Defense Force from, May 1988-September 2006.[2]


A 56th RS HH-60G Pave Hawk aboard USS Ponce (LPD-15) during Operation Odyssey Dawn off the Libyan coast, 2011.

On 1 April 1972 the 39th ARRS was dissolved and the aircraft and crews temporarily became part of Detachment 4 of the 3d Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. On 8 July 1972 the Detachment was redesignated the 56th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.

On 12 April 1975 the squadron's HC-130Ps supported Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.[3]

On 15 October 1975 the squadron was inactivated at Korat RTAFB and its 4 remaining HC-130Ps joined the 40th ARRS.[4]

In 2011 a detachment of helicopters from the 56th deployed on board the USS Ponce (LPD-15).[5]


  • 56th Air Rescue Squadron (1952–1962)
  • 56th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (1972–1975)
  • 56th Air Rescue Squadron (1989–1993)
  • 56th Rescue Squadron (1993 – present)


Bases stationed[2][edit]

Aircraft Operated[2][edit]


  1. ^ "UK rescue squadrons to relocate to Italy". Usafe.af.mil. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f AFHRA 56 RQS Page
  3. ^ Dunham, George R (1990). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973-1975 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-16-026455-9. 
  4. ^ Tilford, Earl (1980). Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia 1961-1975. Office of Air Force History. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-4102-2264-0. 
  5. ^ "U.S. Air Force Gets Underway on USS Ponce." Navy News Service, 1 April 2011.