Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore has been selected to provide helicopters and crew for a new air ambulance service to be launched in Northern Ireland.

The country is the only part of the UK without helicopter emergency services (HEMS) cover and Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) was set up in 2013 to campaign for the introduction of the facility.

Babcock – the former Bond Helicopters – will supply two Airbus Helicopters H135 light twins for the three-year contract, which has an optional two-year extension.

The operator has not disclosed which helicopters it will provide to AANI, but Flight Fleets Analyzer lists it as having two Safran Helicopter Engines Arrius 2B2-powered examples currently in storage, registered as G-SASA and G-WONN.

These were formerly operated for the Scottish Ambulance Service and the South and East Wales Police Air Support Unit, respectively.

Babcock is the UK’s largest HEMS provider, operating from over 20 bases across the UK using a fleet of H135s and larger H145s.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire Air Ambulance has put the first of two new H145s (G-YOAC) into service from its Nostell, West Yorkshire base.

Operations with the medium twin began on 3 September, following its delivery to the charity on 1 August; its sister helicopter is currently being outfitted by Airbus Helicopters UK at its Oxford site ahead of handover scheduled for 1 November. The latter (G-YOAA) will be based at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire.

Representing an investment of around £12 million ($16 million), the two rotorcraft replace a pair of MD Helicopters MD902s that are currently up for sale.

Andrew Lister, director of flight operations at the charity, says: “I genuinely think it is one of the finest utility helicopters on the market today. It’s exceptional and will deliver in every area that we want.”

He cites the additional power, payload capacity and the manufacturer’s Helionix avionics suite as key upgrades over the ageing MD902s.