Four helicopter manufactures are facing off against one another in a bid to become the supplier for a lucrative NOK 16.8 billion rescue contract offshore Norway.

Europe’s Eurocopter, Sikorsky in the US, Anglo-Italian Agusta Westland and multi-national NH Industries are the main competitors for the Norwegian government’s new contract for offshore rescue helicopters which are due into service in 2016.

Currently the government is considering the tenders which were submitted at the end of last month and the contract is due to be awarded in the autumn of 2013.
For nearly 40 years the British-built Sea King, manufactured under licence from Sikorsky, has been in use offshore Norway and the new Sikorsky S92 is being put forward for the new SAR contract.

Older machines, such as the original Sea King and Sikorsky S 61, which were long in use as passenger shuttles to and from Norwegian installations, were large and spacious machines, but these have since been replaced with European Super Puma helicopters, which are faster but narrower inside the cabin.

Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland was formed from the UK’s Westland company, based in Yeovil, near Bristol in the UK south-west, and Italian industrial giant Agusta.

GKN, a major Westland shareholder since 1987, later bought out Sikorsky’s parent company, United Technologies, which was the other significant Westland shareholder. Then in 1994 UT decided to sell its Westland holding. GKN bought UTC’s Westland shares and launched a successful take-over bid for Westland, creating GKN Westland Helicopters in 1995. In 1998 GKN and Finnemeccanica started negotiations for a joint venture company combining their respective helicopter companies, and eventually formed AugustaWestland in July 2000.

Delivery of the new Norwegian search and resecue helicopters is to start in 2016 and all of the units are due to become operational by 2016.