New UK Search and Rescue provider chosen

The MOD and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) together currently provide a 24-hour military and civil helicopter SAR service for the UK SAR region from 12 bases around the UK.

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter in a Search and Rescue role

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter in a Search and Rescue role

This Search and Rescue helicopter service is provided by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Sea Kings and a civilian helicopter service under contract to the MCA.

This capability will be replaced over the next decade through a single contract placed with Soteria that will retain a proportion of military aircrew working alongside civilian aircrew trained to the same high standards. The service will continue to be managed jointly by the MOD and the MCA.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said:

“I am delighted to announce that the Soteria Consortium has been chosen as the Preferred Bidder for the Search and Rescue Helicopter project.

“The new service, which will begin with a phased introduction which is anticipated to begin in 2012, will bring together the current Search and Rescue helicopter provision into one highly effective and harmonised service under a single contract, providing the British taxpayer with an excellent service for many years to come.

“The future service will benefit from modern, fast, reliable helicopters and will continue to operate from 12 bases in order to ensure that it provides a fully effective SAR service.”

Paul Clark, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“The new harmonised service is an excellent opportunity to build upon the high regard that the UK SAR service is so rightly held in. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency manage a SAR service from their four bases that has already been successfully delivered by a contractor for over 20 years and the new service will build on this proven track record.”

Following finalisation of the contract, the MOD and the Department for Transport expect to be in a position to award the contract later this year.

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

The Soteria Consortium is made up of CHC, Thales, Sikorsky and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and has chosen the Sikorsky S-92A as its operational helicopter.

The S-92A is providing reliable service internationally in the oil and gas industry and Search and Rescue with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on Shetland and the Isle of Lewis in northern Scotland.

The helicopter has a cruising speed of 145 knots (269km/h), with a radius of operation in excess of 260 nautical miles (482km).

In comparison with the current SAR Sea King helicopters, the new aircraft is approximately 30 per cent faster and has approximately 70 nautical miles (130km) greater radius of operation.

The cabin, that is over 1.7 metres high, has a large door on the starboard side and a ramp at the rear which will allow easy access for casualties and hospital care equipment such as incubators.

The S-92A SAR-H has a fully equipped purpose-built paramedic station, including piped mains oxygen and an electrical power circuit within the cabin, that allows immediate life-saving care to be administered day and night.
Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

Not including the four aircrew, the S-92 can carry ten passengers seated in fully crashworthy seating and one stretcher, or six plus, seated, and two on stretchers in the SAR role.

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

The helicopter has a twin, side-by-side high speed winch installation which increases the efficiency and safety of rescuing people from places of danger; both winches are identical and rescue is possible using either.

The new service will be phased in progressively taking over site by site, anticipated to start in 2012. The four MCA bases will transition to the new service first and will be followed by the eight MOD bases. The detailed timetable will be finalised as part of concluding the contract.

A common helicopter design has been selected for the future SAR-H service. The black and orange livery will: maximise visibility; signal that this is an emergency service; represent the MOD and the MCA by including the RAF, RN and MCA insignia on all helicopters; and maximise flexibility by being a single colour scheme.