U.K. looking for a single search and rescue helicopter fleet

Published 13 March 2009

The U.K. Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Transportation are planning to acquire one helicopter for both military and domestic search and rescue missions; the single SAR fleet of aircraft will succeed the existing service in 2012

We wrote the other day about the U.K. government setting up a £5 million capital grant to buy helicopters for regional and local police units (10 March 2009 HS Daily Wire). There is another big U.K. helicopter contract in the wings, this time for search and rescue missions, and major companies are planning to bid. The Soteria consortium has announced that it will put forward the Sikorsky S92 aircraft in a bid to win the U.K.’s search and rescue helicopter (SAR-H) contract. The contract is being awarded by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Department of Transport to create a single SAR fleet of aircraft that will succeed the existing service in 2012.

The Soteria group, which consists of Thales, CHC Helicopter Corporation, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, has chosen S92 as its preferred aircraft due to its proven experience in SAR environments. David Rae, Soteria bid director, said: “We are absolutely confident that the S92 is the right aircraft for this new era in U.K. SAR services. Specifically configured for SAR operations, it has already established an excellent track record and possesses the power, speed and technological capabilities to deliver SAR services in the most testing of conditions. As a platform it is safe, robust and dependable. It is versatile and well suited to performing tasks across the full spectrum of SAR activity.”

The S92 helicopter has been involved in more 300 SAR missions and has an aircraft availability level of over 98 percent. The aircraft can reach top speeds of 190 mph and can cruise at 167 mph.

Rae added: “The Soteria team brings together partners who offer diverse yet complementary skills and experience to deliver an innovative, value-for-money solution, and we believe the S92 is the right choice of airframe to meet the demands of SAR-H in the long term. We have been determined throughout to create an offering that meets the very specific challenges of a service to be provided from multiple bases for the 25-year-plus lifespan of the contract, and the S92 is absolutely pivotal to that offering.”