November 13, 2013
LONDON — The Norwegian government has begun final negotiations with AgustaWestland after the company’s AW101 was selected to become the country’s next-generation search-and-rescue helicopter.
Oslo decided on Nov. 8 that the three-engined AW101 will replace a fleet of Westland-built Sea King helicopters under the Norwegian All-Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) program, beating competition from Eurocopter’s EC725.
The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which is running the program, says it aims to complete negotiations by year’s end. The deal will be a huge boost for AgustaWestland’s AW101 production line at Yeovil, U.K. The contract will include 16 helicopters, with an option for six more, allowing Norway to withdraw the Sea King from use by the end of 2020. The first of the new helicopters will enter service in 2017. AgustaWestland said the contract also would include maintenance and training systems, including a simulator.
The AW101 was favored to win the contract because of the support of Norwegian unions, which said AgustaWestland’s offer provided more value and jobs in Norway than Eurocopter’s deal.
Among recent Norway deals was an agreement with defense manufacturer Kongsberg for the maintenance and test of AW101 rotorheads and gearboxes, should the country agree to buy the aircraft.
There currently is a limited backlog of AW101s for the Italian air force along with a number of helicopters destined for VIP use.
The program originally had been in conjunction with Iceland, which also would have bought an extra three helicopters to support its SAR requirements. But Iceland pulled out of the program in September 2012. Norway shortlisted Eurocopter and AgustaWestland in July. Other bidders included NHIndustries, which offered the NH90, and Sikorsky, offering the S-92.
AgustaWestland also has secured a contract to provide eight AW109 Power light twin-engine helicopters to the Philippine air force. They will be used for homeland security, armed reconnaissance and close support missions. Deliveries will start in 2014. The contract also includes initial logistics support and training for aircrew and maintenance personnel.