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Bristow Helicopters has secured a new 10-year contract to provide search-and-rescue (SAR) services for the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, valued at £1.6 billion.
Bristow has been providing SAR services for the MCA since 2013, using a fleet of 10 Sikorsky S-92s and 11 Leonardo AW189s from 10 bases around the U.K.
The contract for the second-generation SAR program — known as UKSAR2G — builds on the existing program with the addition of fixed-wing and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) services. Bristow will partner with 2Excel Aviation (a specialist in fixed-wing aerospace services) and Nova Systems (the consortium’s innovation partner) to deliver the second-generation service.
In addition to providing a mixed fleet that will include six King Airs (including the B350, B350ER and a B200) and a Schiebel Camcopter S-100 UAS, the composition of the rotary fleet will also change.
Bristow will be using a fleet of 18 helicopters, including nine AW189s and three S-92s, along with six new Leonardo AW139s.
“We are very pleased with the MCA’s trust in Bristow to continue to provide safe and reliable search and rescue services with our crews to help save lives throughout the United Kingdom,” said Bristow president and CEO Chris Bradshaw. “Through this new, innovative contract, Bristow and our partners will increase efficiencies and innovations.”
The contract will also see two new seasonal SAR bases established in Fort William and Carlisle, serving areas that see summer tourism booms. Those two bases will operate 12 hours a day from April to September. The existing bases will continue to be operational 24 hours a day.
There will be three fixed-wing bases at Doncaster, Prestwick, and Newquay.
“This contract builds on the existing capabilities we have delivered to the MCA over the past few years with our fixed-wing aircraft packed with state-of-the-art integrated sensors; delivering services to a myriad of government agencies including border security, fisheries patrol, as well as life-saving search and rescue for HM Coastguard – working collaboratively with our partner Bristow,” said Andy Offer, co-founder and director of 2Excel Aviation.
Bristow began trials using drones for SAR operations in March 2020, and they officially became part of the Coastguard fleet in March 2022. They are currently used to support SAR activity in the English Channel, where they can transmit real-time data, including images, to Coastguard operations rooms and other first responders.