Royal Navy and RAF helicopters are to be withdrawn from Search & Rescue (SAR) duties around the UK

The Government has announced plans to remove Royal Navy and RAF helicopters from Search & Rescue (SAR) duties around the UK. Instead, from 2012 all rotary-wing SAR operations will be carried out by a private consortium.

Soteria, a consortium comprising CHC Helicopters, Thales UK, Sikorsky Helicopters, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, has been named as the preferred bidder for the contract, which is worth £6 billion over 25 years. It plans to standardise the SAR fleet on Sikorsky S-92 helicopters, which are around 30 per cent faster than the ageing military Sea Kings.

The fleet will have to service 11,000 km of coastline and 3.6 million sq km of sea, from 12 bases spread from Culdrose in the south of England to Sumburgh in northern Scotland.

CHC Helicopters, part of the consortium, currently deploys four S-92s as part of its contract with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.