The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved a £258-million contract to extend the Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) program to the expected end of service of the helicopter type in 2016.
The SKIOS extension has been necessary following the need to rebid the search and rescues-helicopter (SAR-H) project. The military were initially due to end their provision of SAR coverage by 2012 when the Soteria Consortium (comprising CHC Helicopters, Thales UK and the Royal Bank of Scotland), who had won the original Private Financial Initiative (PFI) contract, were due to take over. However, the contract was scrapped in early 2011 following the discovery of irregularities concerning the bid.
There are still around 90 Sea Kings still in service between the Royal Air Force (HAR3/3A) and Royal Navy (Mk4), most notably as SAR aircraft covering the UK and the Falkland Islands. There are also a small number of RN Sea King Mk7s that provide airborne surveillance and control, more recently operating in Afghanistan. Other RN Sea King’s are operated by the Commando Helicopter Force and these are due to be replaced by the RAF Merlin AW101 helicopters in the near future.
Vector Aerospace will continue to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) support to the Sea King fleet under the direction of the prime contractor, AgustaWestland.
Related: SAR News