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EC225, S-92 to contest UK's SAR-H requirement

The two consortia in the running for the UK's SAR-H search-and-rescue helicopter deal have confirmed their platform choices for the joint Ministry of Defence and Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) requirement, pitching Eurocopter's EC225 against the Sikorsky S-92.

Formed of Lockheed Martin UK, VT and British International Helicopters, the AirKnight team is offering the EC225 (below) for the potential 30-year deal, which is expected to use a private finance initiative funding model. Bid director Tom Gordon cites the European type's "unmatched mission and cost effectiveness", and claims the aircraft would deliver "a low risk, responsive SAR service" to the UK.

 
© Patrick Penna/Eurocopter

Competition to deliver the SAR-H service from 2012 comes from the S-92 and team Soteria, which comprises CHC Helicopter, Thales UK and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

CHC has to date flown more than 300 SAR missions with the S-92 (below) from two bases in Scotland under an interim deal with the MCA, with aircraft availability having bettered 98%. "We are absolutely confident that the S-92 is the right aircraft for this new era in UK SAR services," says Soteria bid director David Rae.

 
© UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Details of the teams' offerings were released after final bids were submitted for the SAR-H requirement. These had previously been expected to be delivered late last year.

The successful candidate will be required to deliver 24h SAR coverage from 12 bases around the UK, with the selected aircraft type to replace Westland Sea King 3/3As flown by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Sea King 5s.

"We are taking forward the PFI competition through a process of dialogue and review," says the UK Defence Equipment and Support organisation. "A preferred bidder will be appointed when an appropriately mature solution has been established and selected through the competitive dialogue process," it adds. "This is anticipated to be in good time to allow the service to start in 2012."

The field for the SAR-H deal narrowed last year, when the UK Air Rescue consortium comprising AgustaWestland, Bristow Helicopters, FB Heliservices and Serco withdrew its interest in the deal, attributing its decision to "a unanimous commercial decision".

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