Coastguard seeks SAR type, police want light twins

Japan’s coastguard will launch a competition this month to select a new medium twin-engine search and rescue (SAR) helicopter, and the national police will soon open a competition for four light twins.

Industry sources say the coastguard has secured funding in fiscal year 2006 to acquire three land-based medium SAR helicopters – the first stage of a programme to replace its fleet of almost 30 Bell 212/412s. AgustaWestland, Eurocopter and Sikorsky have begun providing information on their AW139, EC155 and S-76 models. The coastguard is expected to release a tender soon and award a contract by the end of June specifying deliveries in March 2007.

The coastguard already operates three S-76s to meet a separate requirement and last month awarded a contract for a further S-76 to replace one that crashed. The additional S-76 will be delivered next March and was acquired without a competition, despite protests from other manufacturers, using funds from a supplemental budget for fiscal year 2005.

Sources say the AW139 and S-76 are favourites for the new requirement and this year’s competition is critical because the winner is likely to be contracted later to supply nine more land-based and 15 sea-based SAR helicopters.

AgustaWestland last month delivered the first AW139 in Japan to the Tokyo metropolitan police. Japanese agent Mitsui Busan in February speculatively ordered 12 AW139s to ensure the coastguard has the delivery slots it requires if it also selects the type.

AgustaWestland delivered three A109s to the national police agency last month, swelling its A109 fleet to seven. The agency has secured funds in 2006 for four more light twin-engine helicopters, including one that was originally to have been acquired last month with supplemental fiscal 2005 funding.

The new four-aircraft tender will be released soon, specifying deliveries in March. The lowest bidder will be awarded a contract at the end of June. AgustaWestland will again offer the A109 while Eurocopter is expected to offer the EC135 and Bell the 430.


Source: Flight International