Norway's NAWSARH contest, to replace its ageing fleet of Westland Sea King search and rescue (SAR) helicopters with as many as 22 new rotorcraft, has moved a step closer to resolution with two bidders - AgustaWestland and Eurocopter - invited to engage in further negotiations.

AgustaWestland has pitched its AW101 and Eurocopter the EC225 for the requirement for 16 helicopters, with options for an additional six.

The two shortlisted manufacturers had faced competition from the NH Industries NH90 - in which AgustaWestland and Eurocopter are the majority partners - and Sikorsky's S-92.

Olso already has 14 of the NH90 NFH naval variant on order for its air force and navy, and the type had been considered a favourite for the NAWSARH deal on grounds of commonality. However, well-publicised problems with the initial examples delivered to Norway may have harmed its progress.

 RNoAF Sea King - Norwegian defence ministry

Norwegian defence ministry

The new helicopters will be operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, although the acquisition is being led by the nation's Ministry of Justice. The latter says it hopes to conclude the deal by the end of 2013, with the final Sea King to be phased out by the end of 2020.

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database lists 12 SAR-roled Sea Kings as being in the Royal Norwegian Air Force's inventory. The oldest of these entered use in 1972, it says.

Source: Flight International