AgustaWestland is closing in on an order from Norway for as many as 22 search and rescue-configured AW101s after the nation's Ministry of Justice and Public Security announced it was beginning final negotiations with the manufacturer.
To replace the Royal Norwegian Air Force's fleet of aged Westland Sea Kings, which will be phased out by 2020, the new helicopters will arrive from 2017.
Olso intends to acquire an initial fleet of 16 AW101s, with a further six aircraft covered by options. AgustaWestland and Eurocopter, which had offered its EC725, were shortlisted for the requirement in July, beating off competition from the Sikorsky S-92 and NH Industries NH90.
"I am very pleased that we are now coming forward in the acquisition process for the new search and rescue helicopters," says Anders Anundsen, minister of justice and public security.
The ministry says the AW101 is the helicopter that "best meets the demands" of its difficult environment, which includes missions into the arctic circle.
The selected type must be capable of rescuing up to 20 people from a vessel 150nm (277km) from the helicopter's operating base, and two from a maximum range of 240-360nm.
Daniele Romiti, chief executive of AgustaWestland CEO, says: “AgustaWestland looks forward to working with the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Royal Norwegian Air Force to provide Norway with new-generation all-weather SAR helicopters to replace the...Sea Kings which have successfully served Norway for more than 40 years.”
The two parties hope to finalise negotiations by year-end, says the ministry. It began the procurement process in late 2011.
According to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database the RNoAF operates 12 Sea Kings, with the oldest a 1972-built airframe.