Maritime and Coastguard Agency signs new contract to improve search and rescue

HMCG flying in formation with a fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter and a Schiebel S-100 drone

Following a lengthy 18-month procurement process, the MCA, an executive agency of the Department for Transport, recently signed a contract worth around £1.6 billion with UK-based Bristow Helicopters Ltd.

Robert Courts MP, Minister for Maritime and Aviation said today that Bristow Helicopters Ltd. has been selected to provide both rotary and fixed-wing services for the UK’s Second Generation Search and Rescue Aviation Programme, or UKSAR2G.

Since 2013 Bristow Helicopters Ltd has provided the MCA with search and rescue helicopter service in the UK, and since 2019 2Excel Aviation has provided aerial surveillance aircraft. As well as flying for HM Coastguard, these aircraft also work for other government agencies.

With this new contract, the UK search and rescue sector will benefit from innovation and technological advancements to save more lives even faster.

It will consolidate the two existing independent aviation contracts for rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft.

In addition, it will use unmanned aircraft (drones).

The taxpayer will thus get his money’s worth and more innovations will be possible during the term of the contract.

Under the terms of the new contract, Bristow Helicopters Ltd. will continue to operate from its current ten helicopter facilities and establish two additional temporary stations in Carlisle and Fort William to serve areas close to two of the main summer tourist destinations.

All heliports will remain open 24 hours a day.

From April to September, Fort William and Carlisle will be open 24 hours a day.

During the transition period of the current contracts, which will start on September 30, 2024 and end on December 31, 2026, air search and rescue services will continue to be provided across the UK.

Three fixed-wing bases will be located at Doncaster, Prestwick and Newquay.

MCA has engaged in extensive and complex modeling to forecast future demand for our services.

In doing so, MCA is assured that it can modify future services to meet demand and offer service advancements with new systems and technologies.

When Bristow is in action,

18 helicopters, including new Leonardo AW139 helicopters and Sikorsky S92A helicopters in addition to existing Leonardo AW189 helicopters.

Six King Air fixed-wing aircraft – the B350, B350ER and B200 – as well as a Schiebel S-100 mobile deployable drone system are in service today.

In March 2022, drones were added to HM Coastguard’s air fleet.

They are already in use to support search and rescue operations in the English Channel.

As part of UKSAR2G, Bristow Helicopters Ltd. will therefore continue to build on this to improve situational awareness for emergency responders. Drones can communicate real-time data, including live footage of the incident, to Coast Guard operations rooms and other responders.

These and other advances will help shape the evolution of search and rescue over the next ten years and beyond, as HM Coastguard commemorates its 200th anniversary.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd. also came up with a very innovative idea for a brand new state-of-the-art Search and Rescue Helicopter Simulation Training Center at Solent Airport, next to the Coastguard Training Centre, which will house an artificial rescue winch and a helicopter suspended above a large training basin.

Using sustainable aviation fuels reduces our carbon footprint while providing these services, which is another innovation.

The government has made a significant investment with today’s announcement to provide a nationwide search and rescue aviation service using a personalized approach, ensuring the most suitable aircraft are in the most appropriate places to fulfill the public service commitment of the Maritime Agency and the Coast Guard.

These services will continue to assist other government departments in their efforts to identify and stop illegal behavior at sea, as well as assist other government efforts as needed.

Lead owner responsible for UKSAR2G, Damien Oliver, said:

Because an HM Coastguard helicopter rescued them, we’re sure there are still people alive today.

The idea of ​​future individuals whose lives could be spared through this contract has been a huge motivating factor to ensure that this will build on that success and make it even better looking to the next ten years of service and rescue services.

I am also happy that we can continue to help our government partners in all their efforts.

It is the fantastic result of an 18-month procurement process to deliver an all-new, incredibly capable, state-of-the-art search and rescue aviation service.

Building on the success of the current systems, in place since 2015, the new service will be built.

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