UK Search & Rescue helicopters to be cut by nearly 50% – 300313 1650z

Search and Rescue sell-off

The government is set to announce that Britains Search and Rescue service is to be sold off to an American firm.

(Scroll down for latest updates)

Duke of Cambridges base could be shut down

The Duke of Cambridge shows his father one of the RAF's distinctive yellow Sea King helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey
The Duke of Cambridge shows his father one of the RAFs distinctive yellow Sea King helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Among the 12 bases from where search and rescue operations are launched is RAF Valley on Anglesey, where the Duke of Cambridge is based.

Under the contracts due to be unveiled tomorrow, the total number of bases is expected to be cut from 12 to10 although it is not clear which bases will be closed.

Assurances have already been given that the Duke will be moved to another part of the military rather than being employed by the firm that is awarded the search and rescue contracts.

For more: Privatisation of the Coastguard Service HasArrived


Press release

Government contract to deliver faster, state of the art search and rescue fleet

Department for Transport has signed a contract with Bristow Helicopters Ltd to provide search and rescue helicopter services in the UK.

A new 1.6 billion contract for search and rescue helicopter services will see the UK benefit from improved flying times and better coverage of high-risk areas.

The Department for Transport has today signed a contract with Bristow Helicopters Ltd to provide search and rescue helicopter services in the UK. Helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK search and rescue region within one hour of take off than is currently possible, and based on historic incident data it is estimated that there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20% (from 23 to 19 minutes). Presently, approximately 70% of high and very high risk areas within the UK search and rescue region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85% of the same area would be reached within this timeframe.

Todays announcement represents a major investment by the government in providing a search and rescue helicopter service using the most up to date helicopters and meeting the highest professional standards.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

Our search and rescue helicopter service plays a crucial role, saving lives and providing assistance to people in distress on both land and on sea.

With 24 years of experience providing search and rescue helicopter services in the UK, the public can have great confidence in Bristow and their ability to deliver a first class service with state-of-the-art helicopters.

Under the new contract, 22 state of the art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK.

  • Ten Sikorsky S92s will be based, 2 per site, at Stornoway and Sumburgh, and at new bases at Newquay, Caernarfon and Humberside airports
  • Ten AgustaWestland AW189s will operate, 2 per site, from Lee on Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports

All bases will be operational 24 hours a day.

Press enquiries: 020 7944 3118
Out of hours: 020 7944 4292
Public enquiries: 0300 330 3000


News Reports

3:21PM GMT 29 Mar 2013

Britains search and rescue helicopters to be cut by nearly 50pc in new deal

“Britain’s fleet of search and rescue helicopters will be cut by nearly 50 per cent as a result of the privatisation deal announced by the Government this week.

The Ministry of Defence will retire its 40-strong fleet of Sea King helicopters from 2016, with the search and rescue aircraft being replaced with newer models provided by Texas-based firm Bristow in a 1.6 billion contract with the Department for Transport announced on Tuesday.

However, The Telegraph understands that only 22 new helicopters have been commissioned under the new contract a shortfall of 45 per cent.

Ten of the new helicopters are believed to be AgustaWestland AW189s models and another 10 are thought to be Sikorsky S-92s, both four-bladed twin-engined crafts.

The new craft are expected to be 20 per cent faster than the existing Sea Kings and will be introduced from 2015 in a 10-year deal ending 70 years of search and rescue being run by the RAF and Royal Navy.

Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, who has campaigned to prevent a search and rescue base in Portland from closing, condemned the cuts saying it would have a severe impact on safety.

However fast it is, one helicopter can only be in one place at one time,” he said.

I dont care how fast they are, if they are tasked elsewhere, and you have less helicopters, what helicopter is going to come and do the job? So by cutting the number of helicopters, thats a risk.

The less helicopters and bases you have, the more likely a rescue helicopter will be on another task and will not be able to get where its needed, were there more helicopters and more bases.

He added: The integrity of search and rescue, by removing Portland, will be harmed, and my fear is and I dont want to be alarmist that lives will be lost.

Helicopters are notorious for breaking down, because there are so many working parts.

The Ministry of Defence said front line services would not be impacted by the cut as only 16 of the existing Sea King fleet are deployed for search and rescue missions, with the rest undergoing maintenance or used for training.

Four of the 16 Sea Kings always in deployment are operated by the Royal Navy, while the RAF operates 12, with two helicopters on each base.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) operates another seven helicopters, bringing the number of front line search and rescue aircraft to 23. Those seven, however, are in addition to the 40 aircraft run by the Ministry of Defence.

It was unclear whether those craft will be retired.

A MoD spokesperson said: It is wrong to suggest the MoD operates 40 Search and Rescue helicopters at any one time. There are 16 operational Royal Navy and RAF Sea Kings – 2 at each of the 8 bases – which deliver the UKs search and rescue service. The rest of the fleet are either in deep maintenance, used as part of training programmes or based overseas. These aircraft are not available for operations.

From 2015, search and rescue services will be provided by 22 Bristow helicopters, under a contract awarded by the Department for Transport.

A spokesperson for Bristow Helicopters admitted there would be no additional aircraft to replace any that are taken out of service but said the helicopters will all be kept fully-maintained and ready to fly, with spare parts always available if an aircraft needs to be serviced.

The company added that it expects 20 of the new helicopters to be used for frontline rescue operations, with two used for training or maintenance at any one time.

The Department for Transport insisted the new service would be better than the current one.

It said: “There will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 per cent (from 23 to 19 minutes).

Presently, approximately 70 per cent of high and very high-risk areas within the UK search and rescue region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85 per cent of the same area would be reached within this time frame.” ” – Melanie Hall and Amy Willis


UK Government plan to close 50% of UK Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres Updated 07 Feb 2013 0001Z: Privatising Search and Rescue: Could this be the coalition governments biggest cock-up yet?: Support flaring for Clyde Coastguard, Scotland Published 03 Sept 2012 1440Z:


4 thoughts on “UK Search & Rescue helicopters to be cut by nearly 50% – 300313 1650z

  1. Bristow S-92 Bristow has been awarded the contract to operate Search and Rescue helicopters from 2015

    The firm behind the country’s new air search and rescue service (SAR) has launched an apprenticeship for engineers.

    The SAR bases will be at Inverness, Manston, Prestwick, Caernarfon, Humberside, Newquay, St Athan, Lee-on-Solent, Sumburgh and Stornoway.

    The Bristow Group won the 10-year contract to run the country’s air search and rescue service from 2015.

    The 1.6bn deal ends 70 years of search and rescue from the RAF and Royal Navy.

    SAR base changes

    Culdrose – SAR operation moves to Newquay
    Wattisham – moves to Manston
    Valley – moves to Caernarfon
    Boulmer – SAR operation ending
    Portland – Closing
    Lee-on-the-Solent – not moving
    Chivenor – moves to St Athan
    Leconfield – moves to Humberside
    Lossiemouth – moves to Inverness
    Prestwick – not moving
    Other new bases added

    Apprenticeships would begin in September with applicants completing a four-year programme of on-the-job training in both maintenance and flight operations.

    Training would initially take place at the Lufthansa Resource Technical Training (LRTT) College in Gloucester.

    The apprentices would then take up training at Bristow Helicopters’ operational bases across the UK.

    Managing director Mike Imlach said: “We have been committed to bringing young talent into the business for many years and are pleased to be able to offer these highly skilled positions in SAR as part of this years’ apprentice intake.

    “We hope to bring considerable value to the 10 local communities in which our SAR teams will be based, including job creation and investment in training and developing new recruits.”

    Bristow will replace ageing RAF and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters with modern Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestland 189s. – BBC News 040613


  2. #‎SAR‬ ‪#‎Maritime‬ ‪#‎Shipping‬ ‪#‎Sailing‬ ‪#‎Fishing‬ ‪#‎RNLI‬ ‪#‎News‬/ ‪#‎MilfordHaven‬ ‪#‎Coastguard‬ Ops Centre to join new CG national network


    Milford Haven Coastguard Operations Centre (‪#‎CGOC‬) is to become part of the new Coastguard national network for the very first time this week.

    Work has been carried out at the search and rescue coordination centre to upgrade the technology and introduce new systems. This means Milford Haven CGOC will be connected to the National Maritime Operations Centre (‪#‎NMOC‬) in ‪#‎Hampshire‬ and other Coastguard stations around the country, which will be able to offer mutual support during busy periods.

    From 6th March 2015, Milford Haven CGOC and the new national network will start to take on operations from ‪#‎Swansea‬ Coastguard.

    The changes to Her Majesty’s Coastguard will see the NMOC and 10 other CGOCs around the UK work together to manage the workload. There will be no reduction in rescue resources. The availability of Coastguard ‪#‎Rescue‬ Teams, ‪#‎lifeboats‬, ‪#‎RescueHelicopters‬ and other rescue units will be unaffected.

    Carl Evans, Maritime Operations Controller at Milford Haven CGOC, said:

    ‘The way we deliver the coordination of search and rescue operations on our coast and out at sea is changing. But the public won’t notice any difference. If you call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, or issue a ‪#‎mayday‬ broadcast, we will still be here to help you.’ – MCA (Monday, 16 February 2015)


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