The UK Ministry of Defence has extended its in-service support arrangement with AgustaWestland to cover the remaining three years of use with its aged Sea King transport, surveillance and search and rescue helicopter fleets.

Announced on 20 December, the £258 million ($416 million) deal to continue the Sea King integrated operational support (SKIOS) framework until the end of March 2016 is linked to around 90 aircraft currently flown by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. The MoD signed its first such deal with AgustaWestland in 2005, with the company responsible for providing availability-based depth maintenance services linked to the type.

AgustaWestland says it will "continue to work with a number of key aerospace and defence companies who are supporting the current [SKIOS 2] contract", which was due to conclude in March 2013.

 RN Sea King - Rex Features

Rex Features

The RN Commando Helicopter Force's current inventory of more than 30 Sea King HC4/4+ transports will be replaced via the service's planned receipt of the RAF's AgustaWestland Merlin HC3/3As during the 2014-15 financial year. The capabilities now being provided using the navy's 13 Thales Searchwater radar-equipped Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control system helicopters are expected to be assumed by its upgraded Merlin HM2 fleet, the MoD says.

Almost 40 Sea King HAR3/3A and HU5-standard search and rescue helicopters flown by the air force and navy will also be retired, with their services to be taken over under a Department for Transport-led programme that has yet to select a contractor.

Source: Flight International