The U.K. is finding itself in yet another helicopter procurement mess, this time over the effort to outsource search-and-rescue helicopter service.
Having selected the Soteria consortium in 2009 to provide the service, the private finance initiative has come completely unglued.
Military police are investigating improper conduct in the ₤6 billion deal, the Financial Times reports. The financial institution key to pulling off the PFI, the Royal Bank of Scotland, has pulled out, and the program progress has been suspended as the government tries to sort out what has transpired and how to move forward.
U.K. government officials have said next to nothing since they indicated, in December, the program was under review. However, there are growing indications an announcement could emerge soon, perhaps next week, on how to proceed.
Scrapping the deal would be particularly bad news for Sikorsky, which was to provide the search-and-rescue helicopter using its S-92.
Other manufacturers, AgustaWestland and Eurocopter, are watching with interest to see if there will be a new tender. Several industry officials suggest it could be difficult to proceed with the arrangement currently on the books given all that has transpired in recent weeks. AgustaWestland is all but assured to benefit from the turmoil. The current rotorcraft used in the SAR role, the Sea King, will almost certainly require additional work to remain viable until a replacement is fielded, regardless of whether that is the S-92 or something else.
But the really big questions the U.K. needs to ask is whether a PFI makes sense and whether the demand to sustain 12 bases makes sense.