Soteria to replace SAR helicopters

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department of Transport (DfT) have awarded a contract for replacing the UK’s search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopters with a single fleet of aircraft.

A new fleet of Sikorsky S92 aircraft will be provided by winning bidder the Soteria Group, which consists of Sikorsky, Thales, CHC Helicopter Corporation and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The initial service provision will begin in 2012.

The 25-year contract for supply and services was awarded through the government’s Search and Rescue – Helicopter (SAR-H) programme, which has been designed to harmonise search and rescue in the UK and replace current helicopters in operation with a bespoke capability.

Following the announcement, David Rae, Soteria bid director, said: ‘SAR-H is a very important programme for the UK and this decision is a strong vote of confidence in Soteria and our ability to provide this vital public service.
‘Soteria will work in partnership with the MoD and the DfT and other SAR and civil resilience stakeholders to ensure that the UK’s history of providing a world-leading SAR service is assured and enhanced through the introduction of modern technology in the form of the Sikorsky S92.’

According to the consortium, the S92 helicopter has already been involved in more than 300 SAR missions and has an aircraft availability level of more than 98 per cent.

The helicopter can reach top speeds of 190mph (306kph) and cruise at 167mph. Its internal fuel tank is also claimed to be fully sufficient, providing the aircraft with a radius of action (ROA) of 270 nautical miles. ROA describes the distance the helicopter can fly from base, spend 30 minutes on task including 15 minutes in hover, then return to base with 20 minutes’ fuel reserve remaining.