UK government reviews helicopter SAR program

 - August 2, 2010, 5:41 AM

The Soteria consortium, which consists of operator CHC, training and aircraft equipment specialist Thales, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and 

helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, was expecting the new UK Tory-LibDem 

coalition government to complete, by the end of last month, a review of its selection as the preferred bidder in the search-and-rescue helicopter program (SAR-H) that was to deliver a “single, harmonized” SAR service.

In June, UK Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said the SAR-H program would be reviewed “as a matter of urgency,” as part of a broad budget-

cutting effort. The Soteria team was chosen in February by the previous, New Labour government.

A Thales spokeswoman told AIN that the consortium is “hopeful of a conclusion by the end of July.” She added that the consortium continues to work with the customer “toward contract award.”

SAR service is pegged to begin in 2012 with Sikorsky S-92s. Today’s aging Sikorsky S-61 Sea Kings are due to be phased out by 2016, and the total number of S-92s is anticipated to reach 25 eventually. 

The government estimates the program will cost approximately £6 billion ($9 billion) over 25 years under a private finance initiative. Both the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport are involved.

At least some of the aircrew will be military, to ensure the expeditionary forces maintain SAR skills and experience. CHC already provides some interim SAR service to the UK government.