MCA Aviation has announced that the second generation UK SAR aviation programme is currently in a market engagement phase.
The Contract Notice is due to be published in the first quarter of 2021. That is nearly a year later than the previously published date.
The procurement cycle is due to take up to 24 months (previous contract took 16 months).
The contract award is due in December 2022.
Service commencement is due on 30th September 2024 which is 18 months later than the date stated in Schedule 2.5, Table 2.3.4 of the current contract. (An option for a 24 month extension is part of the current contract.)
Helicopters: Civilian versus MOD
by ScraggyGoat - on 28 Nov 2011 (Date of Contract Notice and announcement.)
SAR Helicopter Service contract: implementation phase
by Jim Fraser - on 31 Jul 2013 (4 months after contract award.)
SAR Helicopter Service contract: implementation phase, part 2
by Jim Fraser - on 06 Jan 2016 (as the last military SAR flight in the UK is stood down)
Over 1000 posts and over 100,000 views so far.
Out in the real world, thousands of lives have been saved by this service.
Jim, these threads have been great - I wonder have you formed a view of the overall success of the program compared to the historic set up?
They might have saved thousands of lives, but the two chopper rescues I’ve been involved in they were both pretty useless. One Coastguard in Pembroke and another in Scotland in winter.
> They might have saved thousands of lives, but the two chopper rescues I’ve been involved in they were both pretty useless. One Coastguard in Pembroke and another in Scotland in winter.
Happy to hear more about those if you are so inclined. Email maybe.
Qinetiq were engaged to produce a Post Implementation Review of the current contract in 2018 and that was published in mid-2019 and referred to on the previous thread:
There are no major failings identified in the PIR. I have done a few notes about it here:
The merger between Bristow and Era is expected to complete in mid-June 2020. The current President and CEO of Era will be President and CEO of the combined company.
As in 1955, and again in 2006, when a name was sought for a new organisation, on this occasion the dice fall in the same way and the combined company will be called Bristow.
The bits we're interested in will be run by Brits from Bristow.
There are indications that the commitment to SAR remains undiminished.
The process leading to a new contract for SAR aviation starting in 2024 has begun and on Tuesday 12th May the MCA held the Industry Day in the form of an online meeting. The recording of that is on gov.uk and youtube. It's over an hour long but you can get a strong flavour of what is going on by skipping from one slide to the next in the first half and the second half is a live Q&A.
BBC news article.
Runners and riders still marshalling themselves at the starting gate for this race probably.
"Babcock says offshore helicopter market ‘no longer attractive’ in long term"
"As a result, the firm has booked a £502 million ($633 million) write-down in its aviation business, chiefly related to the goodwill of the operation.
That is a significant increase on the impairment charge outlined in a February trading update, which at that stage was predicted to be just £85 million.
Babcock has been active in the segment since its 2014 acquisition of Avincis, which had previously bought offshore operator Bond Helicopters, a business whose roots stretched back to the early days of oil and gas support flights.
(Archie) Bethel had warned in the February trading update that it did “not intend to invest further to stay in that [offshore] market” and said it would not chase the low pricing of its rivals, most of which had shed debts via US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection."
There is a some potential for this to have an effect on the SAR contract but we must wait to see what that might be. Normally, one would expect to see Babcock being a prominent bidder. Last time, before the Avincis-Band acquisition, they started out as part of Osprey with BIH and ERA before getting together with Bond under the Azimuth banner after Osprey dropped out. Azimuth were in the final stage along with Bristow and could easily have been operating all or part of the contract today.
The big question might be, do Babcock see their debt-shed competitors (BHL & CHC) as a threat to the profitability of the SAR contract in the same way as in the crew-change market?
This contract is likely to include big military style drones.
In certain cases this would be helpful in being sent up at the same time as the heli as the drone has far superior search capabilities to pinpoint people on the ground to save the heli "search" time.
It is of course up to the bidders to show that there is an effective place for a remotely piloted fleet. I am sure Elbit will be happy to talk this up regardless of which way the evidence points but there are some serious problems to consider.
There is currently no regulatory framework for these machines although that is being examined.
"On the ground" may rarely or never be part of the scenario. In the water: yes. However, it's difficult to see where these will realistically fit in when the MCA is already questioning the roles a super-medium rotorcraft for their large number of short-range jobs. The very same short-range jobs that MCA analysts are making a great fuss about bring the greatest de-confliction challenges for a remotely piloted fleet.
Out west of Ireland they can fly around at a few hundred or at 2000 feet as much as they like and all the other traffic is at 35000 feet. Out there of course having a cruise speed slower than a Sea King might be a wee problem.
If we consider how long it took to develop the regulatory framework for SAR helicopters or how long it took to introduce the AW189SAR then it becomes more difficult to be optimistic about a remotely piloted fleet for 2024.
Fortunately, there are plenty of enhancements that fit with the MCA's technological ambitions without a remotely piloted fleet.
Enhanced sensors including hyperspectral, mobile phone detection and interaction, upgraded aircraft (AW189K? S-92B?), new hoist clutches and cables, enhanced terrain awareness systems, synthetic vision, laser obstacle proximity systems, and integrated systems on rotor and fixed wing fleets, are all out there.
Flight Global have spoken to the MCA's Aviation Technical Assurance Manager and written an article about the contract process. That is the guy whose department writes the technical specification. He's been at this for a while.
[Registration required for full access.]
I don’t think a “drone” has far superior search capabilities to pinpoint people than a manned platform. Both manned and unmanned air systems can be mounted with the same type of sensors. The advantage of unmanned systems is that they tend to have longer range/endurance as you don’t need to cater for people, the advantage of manned systems is that decision making is taking place at the optimum location with the best situational awareness.
For the world in general...the use of “drone“ is a pejorative colloquialism which comes from the predominantly US use of the unmanned air systems to conduct strikes against individuals...they aren’t (mindless) drones as they are very high tech and controlled by trained personnel.
MCA have conducted a SAR Stakeholder Presentation, on the morning of Tuesday 30th June, in the same format as the Industry Presentation that I posted about above. As with the Industry Presentation, it is expected that the SAR Stakeholder one will be posted on the GOV.UK site and the MCA's Youtube channel.
You'll be able to get a flavour of things once it's posted on those sites. Then if you have any questions, just stick them on here and I'll try to provide an answer.
It was attended by representatives from police, mountain rescue, lifeboats and others.
It is worth noting that there wasn't time for any of this back in 2011/13 and that several of the SAR stakeholders had their heads in another space. In particular, police in Scotland were scurrying around preparing for unification and police in England & Wales were creating the National Police Air Service.
> The merger between Bristow and Era is expected to complete in mid-June 2020.
This was completed on the 11th of June.
MCA Aviation have now created a publications page
for all further details of the UKSAR2G programme.
This new page includes PDF files with details of the industry presentation.
The Q&A document is quite revealing of industry thinking and some of the same questions that come up in the MR community appear there.
Time for an unmanned aerial dictionary.
RPAS Remotely Piloted Aircraft System. Term used by the RAF, and others, for their remotely piloted fleet.
SUA Small Unmanned Aircraft. Term used in CAA documents for aircraft of less than 20kg dry. Those under 7kg are subject to enhanced airspace restrictions.
sUAS Small Unmanned Aircraft System.
SUSA Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft.
UAS Unmanned Aircraft System. Term used in CAA regulations encompassing all systems.
UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Term widely used but increasingly referring to only the vehicle as a component of a UAS which includes all associated systems.
Annual statistics for year to March 2020.
Interactive dashboard, contract to date.
Be good to understand why
From Sea King to SAR Queen.
Commencement of service for the Norwegian All Weather Search And Rescue Helicopter project. This may well become the most capable air rescue service in the world. If not the most capable then extremely close. Something to learn from and aim for.
Oh no. Here we go again.
It's 2011 all over again and just wrong.
Operational Stakeholder Presentation and Q&A.
More4, 2100h, Sunday 13th September 2020,
EMERGENCY RESCUE: Air, Land & Sea.
'A brand-new series that has had exclusive access to HMCG search and rescue helicopters, coastguard rescue teams and operations centres.
The 10-part series gives you a first hand look at the dramatic real life rescues HMCG and mountain rescue teams across the UK carry out.'
Hopefully, this will be a effective lesson for all those clowns out there who still think an old yellow thing with the flight performance slightly better than a lawn mower is the ultimate in SAR aviation.
A written version of the Operational Stakeholder Q&A has been posted.
Industry Event. 8th September 2020.
In particular, this event makes clear that the MCA is facilitating the transfer of asset from the incumbent contractor to successful bidders if appropriate and required. Essentially, the way is clear, but not mandatory, for the next contractor, or contractors, to use the same ten bases and operate S-92A and AW189.
The timetable of further preparatory elements of process are notified to bidders.
Extension of the current contract is confirmed. This formalises several of the inevitable consequences of the approaching contract process.
An article about how the MCA is employing technology to improve aspects of the bid process.
There is new stuff on the GOV.UK page.
One of the new videos reveals more about the data modelling being used to assist bidders. I am a little concerned about whether bidders are given an indication of what are MOUNTAIN jobs. More information may yet emerge.
Another video refers to a document that appears to be the new equivalent of the 2012 'Technical Requirements Matrix' which has been issued to "appropriate category 1 responders and Government Departments" a couple of weeks ago. This is the ongoing development of the new technical requirement that we can expect will appear in a fully evolved form as part of the final contract in 2022.
Leonardo promoting their success in supplying AW101 for the NAWSARH project.
During October, the Coasties signed off a document called Single Statement of User Needs (SSUN) that defines their requirements and at the end of that month they sent it out to Government Departments and Category 1 Responders for feedback. Feedback was due back by the end of November. Cat1 were asked to collate feedback from their SAR volunteers.
The SSUN is similar in many respects to the Technical Requirement Matrix issued in February 2012 as part of the previous contract process (and largely inherited from SARH25) that became Schedule 2.1 Specification of the current contract.
Much has been made of the Government policy for a service-based contract that concentrates on outcomes and does not prescribe methodology. There is something to be said for this approach since it may provide for greater bidder innovation. The SSUN layout and style reflect this approach.
However, it seems to me that the operator needs the customer to specify certain aviation requirements so that they have a clearly defined reason to write an appropriate safe procedure into their operating manual, which is key to approval by the regulator, who expresses that approval through the granting of an Air Operating Certificate.
The Contract Notice for 4 lots of UKSAR2G is scheduled to be issued on 25th January 2021.
The first part of the process is a Selection Questionnaire (like PQQ sort of thing). This will lead to what is being described as a 'down selection' in late April. A further down selection may occur in September depending upon the conditions that arise. (One might expect that a number of bidders in the range of three to five would be the comfortable numbers for entering the final stages. That leads me to think that if six were selected in April and a further two dropped out then the second selection process won't be necessary.)
The four lots, which we can expect to be defined in the Contract Notice, are now expected to be as follows.
1. Fast urgent short-range rescue with short response.
2. High endurance long range rescue with longer response.
3. Fixed wing, and potentially UAV, search and surveillance.
4. All three lots bid as a single entity.
I am sure some of you will, like me and others, look at the Lot 1 & 2 definitions somewhat sceptically and regard them as features of the statistical analysis of jobs rather than a practical approach to response from a national integrated service. I have a vision of the usual suspects sitting opposite DfT negotiators struggling to avoid telling them not to be bl00dy silly. You just never know when a decent-sized and well-equipped platform will come in handy.
Final tenders are scheduled to be submitted about a year from now. A period of several months is programmed for government internal processes before contract award in the summer of 2022.
It is now clearer how the transition-in will take place and all parts of the new contract are expected to be in operation by 31st December 2026.
It is interesting that Lot 4 has emerged after a period of significant engagement both with industry and SAR stakeholders. Clearly, there are matters involving co-ordination and intellectual property that emerge when multiple operators are working as part of an integrated national service. Lot 4 would be attractive for the DfT because it pushes those problems, perhaps out of the picture entirely, but perhaps more likely, into the hands of the main contractor. It would be interesting to learn whether Lot 4 is most desired by the usual suspects of the SAR helicopter world or by the big bruisers of government-contracting/daylight-robbery who would just be subbing the whole thing.
Mountain Rescue organisations from across the UK, along with other public safety agencies, continue to engage with MCA Aviation, and each other, on these matters.
This all starts for real again on Monday.
I expect it to be one of the few competent processes to occur on this government's watch.
> This all starts for real again on Monday.
> I expect it to be one of the few competent processes to occur on this government's watch.
There appears to be a small administrative hiccup.
The tender is out: https://find-tender.service.gov.uk/Notice/001168-2021
I'm afraid that is last week's Prior Information Notice (PIN). Note the date of the Contract Notice near the end. It appears to confirm what was expressed in previous presentations about the C/N being published on Monday 25th January.
There are some useful bits in the PIN though. You might find it useful to familiarise yourself with the Lot definitions for instance. These appear to be developing as we go forward. It will be interesting to see how they pan out when bidders try to address them in a practical and economic way.
The data has recently been making them focus on the fact that the majority of jobs are short, quick, and involve 1 or 2 persons. So what's the point of sending a 12 tonne S-92A to that they ask. The MCA website shows that Inverness (R151) have ended up most of the way to Denmark and St Athans (R187, AW139!) have been out in the Atlantic further west than Spain. Using the current logic of the new Lots 1 & 2, these would have been S-92 jobs but in the real world situation ARCC saw fit to send AW189/139. I think a mix of aircraft types is not a bad idea but imagining that exactly the right aircraft is going to be available on the day so that the bills are kept a little lower is probably fantasy. That R936 job 500km West of Ireland is why we have large capable SAR aircraft. A 500+km return flight is probably more than two hours in poor weather and you need space to work on a casualty during that period. That is one of the reasons we and the Irish have S-92, the Norwegians have AW101 and the Icelanders have H225.
Still no Contract Notice but the bi-annual stats are out for Apr-Sep 2020.
MCA Aviation have announced a delay in the launch of the procurement process. Two short industry update videos issued during the last few days have appeared on the UKSAR2G webpage. These are about the current status of the process. A delay until later last week followed by a delay until an unknown time.
I was watching a TV programme about mountaineering at altitude and it made me wonder about the real pressure altitude at the top of our highest mountain. Pressure reduces not only with altitude above MSL but with latitude and also varies according to the type of weather system passing through.
Why is this important? Well, just as human beings have trouble breathing at altitude, helicopters have extraordinary difficulty finding enough air molecules to push against to keep them in the air. Hover In Ground Effect (HIGE) and Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE) are the rotorcraft characteristics that tell us about this aspect of performance. These are based on a standard model of the atmosphere called the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA). An ability to perform a hover delivery of MRT at 4000 feet ISA +15 degC is part of the current contract.
Ben Nevis summit had a meteorological station for many years so we know what the range of pressures is. Unlike some parts of the world, it turns out that at Ben Nevis the extremes all take place in January. (Who knew?!?!) So I took the lowest and highest pressures recorded at the summit of the BenN and used an online calculator for the ICAO ISA to find the equivalent pressure altitude.
Ben Nevis maximum pressure altitude - 6900 feet
Ben Nevis median pressure altitude - 5200 feet
No wonder the Sea King struggled!
(I don't feel so guilty about getting out of breath while chopping through cornices now!)
[Insufficient data available to calculate the average so had to make do with median.]
6900 feet suggests that even a Sikorsky S-92A might struggle but of course in low pressure conditions in January in Scotland it is going to be cold and breezy! Helicopters love cold and breezy.
> Ben Nevis maximum pressure altitude - 6900 feet
> Ben Nevis median pressure altitude - 5200 feet
For the benefit of those of us who don't fly aircraft, by my reckoning that's about
That is quite striking. I'd probably assume, mind, that if the pressure was low enough to effectively raise the summit 750m the weather would be bad enough to discourage me from going up
> That is quite striking. I'd probably assume, mind, that if the pressure was low enough to effectively raise the summit 750m the weather would be bad enough to discourage me from going up
Quite possibly. One might also conclude that those not so discouraged by the conditions around a low pressure might be more likely to need rescued. Flying conditions other than pressure might also not be ideal though.
Add in the density altitude and it’s up to 8-9000 feet. Isa plus 15 is about 25 Celsius
not too shabby performance on a hot, still day ?
A link to the Operational Stakeholder Interactive Map (sign-in required) was added last week but a few days later this was removed because of technical issues with access.
The point of the Operational Stakeholder Interactive Map is that it allows the bidders to discover who the SAR Operational Stakeholders are and contact them to establish the level of training required for their particular specialism.
So lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue Service and mountain rescue all operate in different environments and have different training needs. This facility is the bidders' chance to understand the numbers and locations involved for each type of training.
Hopefully, they'll get this sorted out and bidders will be able to get a good understanding of the training load.
MCA Aviation have issued another Industry Update, dated Friday and posted on the USAR2G web page this morning.
Youtube location: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIhEv03sAOQ&
This update is presented by Damien Oliver, Commercial and Programmes Director, senior responsible owner for the UKSAR2G programme. The core message is as follows.
"We would dearly love to have by now been able to launch the selection questionnaire for UKSAR2G. We still have one or two questions that we need to address that are posed to us by others elsewhere and we're busily doing that right now. Please again rest assured that this is not a sign of change or things to worry about; simply the nature of a complex programme like UKSAR2G in this kind of situation that we're in right now.
We expect to be able to launch the tender earliest we suspect the beginning of March so we are very grateful for your patience while we work through what we're dealing with at the moment."
In these strange times when Government spending has already soared to new heights, one might be tempted to speculate that a maybe two or more billion pound contract might get delayed while the Treasury take a very close look at it.
However, this would be to ignore the historical reality that in the summer of 2010 the Treasury were getting nervous about SARH25 fixed costs exceeding £6bn across 25 years. Now we are faced with the prospect of doing the (helicopter) job during that period for maybe £3.6bn to £3.8bn which is nicely inside the estimated value in the SARH25 Contract Notice back in 2006.
"II.2.1) ... ... Estimated value excluding VAT:
Range: between 3 000 000 000 and 5 000 000 000 GBP"
> I expect it to be one of the few competent processes to occur on this government's watch.
"We can't all, and some of us don't." said Eeyore.
A link has been added on gov.uk for an update dated the 5th. However, the link, is to a youtube address, where: "Video unavailable. This video has been removed by the uploader."
No further related items appear on the "Find a tender" site.
The UKSAR2G Contract Notice was published last night.
All lots have a duration of 144 months with a possible extension of 24 months. Commencement is stated as between 2024 and 2026.
There are no official indicators for who is participating from across the industry. That may be affected by oil industry economics, recent mergers and acquisitions, how various collaborations pan out, and not least the concurrent contract process for the Irish Coastguard SAR Aviation Project which has a very similar character.
The British helicopter industry landscape is changing. Babcock International have announced that they are selling their North Sea and Australia offshore helicopter business to CHC.
Previously, the offshore business around the UK was dominated by Bristow, Bond and then CHC. NHV then being a more recent newcomer.
Bond has always been a significant player in the air ambulance sector and helicopter support for lighthouses and defence establishments. They were bought by the major defence contractor Babcock and the branding changed to Babcock deserting the red for Babcock blue. For several years it has been rumoured that this wasn't going to work because Babcock were happier building ships and getting monster size cheques from HM Govt. So now the more volatile bit that perhaps Babcock don't really understand is being sold and they are hanging on to the steady government and charity customers.
There is some oil & gas industry SAR in amongst that but the likes of UKSAR2G is more the domain of Babcock's onshore operation. We have yet to discover if Babcock will be participating in the UKSAR2G contract, either as a main player or partner. This change may also have some small effect on how things go for Irish, Dutch and Norwegian contracts that are also in-process in a similar period.
Personally, I find the breaking up of the old Bond empire regrettable. I was always very happy to fly with them whether offshore crew change or other contract activity. CHC know a lot about SAR but if there is one thing I hope for from this change it's that CHC should learn some communication skills from the Babcock/Bond folks.
Talk of the town just now is the new Draken-Airbus bid team.
We can probably expect more of this sort of collaboration to emerge.
This part of Draken is a rebrand of Cobham that previously was part of the FB Heli joint venture with Bristow. They provide SAR helicopter training to the MoD and employ people who have considerable SAR experience. FB were in the previous bid process.
What else is happening?
Norway - North (Tromso-Svalbard)
This has been awarded and went to CHC (1860 million Kroner). Previously it was done by Lufttransport.
Currently NHV. This one is in the award stage and we should know the result in the next month or two.
Currently CHC. This should be in-process but is being kicked about at ministerial level by the Air Corps who want SAR back.
The UKSAR2G site has been updated with Operational Stakeholder and Industry Q&As.
> The UKSAR2G site has been updated with Operational Stakeholder and Industry Q&As.
This appears to include several commercial questions mainly related to infrastructure and assets and the addition of a section comprising 32 questions about the Selection Questionnaire.
I haven't gone through all the changes yet but 7.1 is revealing in that it indicates the moving morass of joint ventures and subcontracting that we are likely to see as this progresses.
The MCA have updated the outline programme timeline of the USAR2G web page and it is now clear that the recent delay shifts the entire procurement programme out a couple of months.
The commencement of service date remains 1st October 2024.
However, the contract award date shifts from July to September/October of 2022.
A great podcast here about the CHC Irish Coastguard SAR helicopter service. They interview a pilot and winchman, and talk about the process of recruiting civilians into these roles, due to a diminishing recruitment pool from the Irish military.
Manning levels almost identical to UK SAR. No mention of NVG even though there was a plan for introduction some time ago, rumours of staffing issues regarding training, and considerable discussion about the difference they would have made to the R116 accident. No mention even of rearcrew goggles (that was used in the UK for searching before full cockpit NVG were introduced).
Interesting about recruitment. Some contend that if additional bases are proposed for UK SAR then aircrew will magically appear out of nowhere. Not so sure. After listening to that I am even less sure.
The MCA have published a link on the UKSAR2G webpage to their Interactive Operational Stakeholder Map. The map shows Police, Fire, NHS, cave rescue, lowland rescue, Coastguard Rescue Service, lifeboats and MRT across the entire UK.
There are a few omissions and errors that need sorting and I am not yet sure how it will be addressing the detail of the original intended purpose. It should help bidders to understand the Operational Stakeholder training load and the range of joint working necessary.
Leonardo prepares for production of their new civilian tilt rotor AW609 aircraft.
Bristow are the launch partner for this and have specified SAR as a possible role (though they operate SAR in many places other than the UK). So is the CAA ready to regulate civilian tilt rotor aircraft (USAF V22 Ospreys are already flying in the UK)? Could Bristow conceivably by bidding on UKSARG2 with a new aircraft that isn't expected to be operational for at least two years? I don't know, but it's interesting times!
This Winter Conditions page gives a summary of what is being climbed at the moment, what is 'in' nick and what the prospects are...