Yes, these do meet the Federal requirements for nighttime visual distress
signals. In that sense they are a "replacement" for flares. However, if you think about it, the flashing strobe and the flare may in fact do two entirely different things if you are out there trying to be found. The flare can serve as an "alert" signal- i.e. it ATTRACTS attention by the fact it provides a sudden bright light that is different from other potential background lighting
. This is even more true for aerial flares! The handheld LED ("SOS Light") is more of a "locator" signal. It lasts much longer then a flare and may provide a better way for searchers to actually find you...AFTER you get their attention. I am of the opinion that the flashing LED may not in fact be much of an "attention getter" particularly if there are other background lighting
such a flashing buoys, lights on land, etc. Perhaps it is more effective offshore
with no other lights for it to blend into. Another aspect is that the LED emits no heat. SAR aircraft (and some surface craft) are usually equipped with infrared capability (FLIR). The infrared won't "see" the LED at all. (An interesting side fact is that the day side of the flare- orange smoke, can also be used at night at it also emits heat that the infrared can pick up). Finally, the LED strobes are being marketed as "no expiration" as compared to flares. True, however, it does have batteries
which need to be checked annually and replaced at some point. So, I agree with the above poster... carry both!