Combat search and rescue (CSAR) are search and rescue operations that are carried out during war that are within or near combat zones.
A CSAR mission may be carried out by a task force of helicopters, ground-attack aircraft, aerial refuelling tankers and an airborne command post.
Modern examples of CSAR:
- The United States Air Force (USAF) 24th Special Tactics Squadron was involved in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. Timothy Wilkinson, a Pararescueman, was awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroic actions during the battle.
- During the opening moments of Operation Desert Storm, an MH-53 Pave Low crew from the 20th Special Operations Squadron recovered an F-14 Tomcat pilot who was shot down over Iraq.
- On June 2, 1995, a USAF F-16C was shot down by a Bosnian Serb Army SA-6 surface-to-air missile near Mrkonjić Grad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The American pilot, Scott O’Grady, ejected safely and was rescued six days later. The operation became known as the Mrkonjić Grad incident.
- In 1999, members of United States Air Force Pararescue along with Air Force Special Operations recovery aircraft successfully rescued the pilot (Vega 31) of an F-117 “stealth” attack aircraft and the pilot (Hammer 34) of an F-16 fighter aircraft both of whom were shot down over Yugoslavia while on a NATO-led mission. Both pilots were rescued following each isolating event.
The Bangladesh Air Force conducts regular CSAR exercises to promote a high state of readiness in case of war. Of these heliborne rescue teams are the most visible resources brought to bear by the Bangladesh Air Force during such exercises.
Bangladesh Air Force aircraft which crashed in the Bay of Bengal or other remote parts of the country were the subject of various rescue, salvage and recovery operations. While none of these were combat related the potential for being shot down over enemy territory during war is very real. This is why CSAR task forces are also kept ready during the event of any major operation.
In recent times the Bangladesh Air Force used AgustaWestland AW139 maritime search and rescue helicopters during combat search and rescue exercises. Special Forces teams were also flown to landing zones using Mi-171Sh combat-support helicopters, which are more likely to be used in war time roles for CSAR operations.