By James T. McKenna | October 4, 2017
The U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency is beginning to assess new super-medium helicopters and search and rescue (SAR)-related technologies in preparation for a follow-on tender for contracted SAR services in and around the island nation.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd. took over SAR services from the Royal Air Force and Navy under a 10-year contract awarded by that agency in 2013. The takeover was phased in throughout 2015 and 2016, and Bristow took over the last of 10 bases (operated by the U.K. Coastguard at Lee-On-Solent, Stornoway and Sumburgh) earlier this year.
The 2023 expiration of that contract would require a tender for follow-on bidding to be completed and posted by 2019. So Maritime and Coastguard Agency officials are starting now to assess the capabilities of helicopter types introduced since 2013 — including the super-medium class made up of the Airbus Helicopters H175, Leonardo Helicopters AW189 and, eventually, Bell Helicopter 525 — for SAR work, as well as related technologies like satellite-based communications and tracking, reconnaissance sensors and communications, mapping and mission-management systems.
On consideration for the follow-on contract is how the agency can further harmonized helicopter support requirements for other agencies and organizations in the U.K., such as Border Force, police, fire services, mountain rescue teams and volunteer groups.