Vector Aerospace spells out plans for UK's DARA helicopter business

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The UK Ministry of Defence has moved to safeguard the future of its helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul services, with Canada's Vector Aerospace to acquire - and potentially expand - the rotorcraft activities of its Defence Aviation Repair Agency.

To be completed in the first quarter of this year, the £17 million ($33.5 million) deal will conclude a two-year process to select a new owner for DARA's helicopter business, and complete part of the MoD's wide-ranging logistics transformation process.

Vector will take control of rotary-wing business at Fleetlands, Hampshire and Almondbank, Perthshire, which, respectively, provide airframe and component repair services for the UK's AgustaWestland Lynx, Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Westland Sea King helicopters.

Although the company has not received a long-term guarantee that the MoD will place future work at the sites, chief financial officer Randal Levine says it has contracts on all three platforms until their planned retirement from service. Vector hopes to secure additional work on the Chinook and Sea King platforms, and to provide support to further European customers, he adds.

"Privatisation could develop the business further, with the best chance of winning a share of new work in a subcontractor role via the through-life contracts we are increasingly placing with our key industry partners," says armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth.

Vector president Donald Jackson says: "We look forward to providing reliable service to the MoD's key helicopter platforms, and creating a European centre of excellence in helicopter maintenance."

The addition of DARA's 1,100 rotorcraft sector employees will double Vector's payroll, which already includes about 230 staff employed in the UK by the company's Sigma Aerospace subsidiary, which provides engine maintenance for the Royal Air Force's Lockheed Martin C-130K transports and Vickers VC10 tankers.

n Rolls-Royce will receive a contract worth a potential £10 million ($19.7 million) next month to provide support services for the 250-B17F engines that power the British armed forces' Britten-Norman Defender surveillance aircraft. The UK's Defence Equipment and Support organisation says contract award is expected in mid-March, with the deal to run until the type's planned retirement in February 2018.