US firm to take over Duke of Cambridge's helicopter fleet
The Bristow Group, an American company, is expected to be unveiled on Tuesday as the winner of the multi-billion pound contract to take over the service from 2015.
The anticipated announcement to the London stock exchange ends 70 years of search and rescue operations by the RAF and Royal Navy, who have saved thousands of lives both at sea and off mountain tops.
The contract, which is due to last from 2015 until 2026, is thought to be worth more than £3bn.
It is understood the firm, headquartered in Texas, has plans to replace ageing RAF and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters with modern Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestland 189s.
The Ministry of Defence’s distinctive fleet of yellow Sea King helicopters, which the Duke flies as a search-and-rescue pilot, were already due to be retired by March 2016.
Reports on Monday night suggested that as a result the government had concluded that search and rescue should therefore be contracted out.
The technology is at such an advanced stage that the US State Department had to give its approval for it to be used in Britain, Sky News reported.
Sole responsibility for Britain’s search and rescue was transferred to the Department for Transport that began a procurement process for the private sector to provide civilian crews on a 10-year contract.
When the privatisation was announced in 2011, The Daily Telegraph reported that the Duke privately lobbied David Cameron to save the service.
At the time aides refused to confirm whether the Duke had lobbied the Prime Minister on the future of the Search and Rescue Force.
A Clarence House spokesman referred inquiries to the MoD on Monday night.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are due to make an announcement soon." Spokesmen for the MoD and the company were unavailable.
Bristow, which already provides transport services in Britain, to ferry oil-rig workers to and from North Sea platforms, also operates in parts of Europe, Asia, North America, Australia and Africa.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9953757/US-firm-to-take-over-Duke-of-Cambridges-helicopter-fleet.html