Norway has received the first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopters, it was announced on 20 November. The helicopter was handed over to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice & Public Security after departing Leonardo’s Yeovil facility in the United Kingdom on 17 November.
This first helicopter will now undertake operational test and evaluation before formally entering service with the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RoNAF) in 2018. Delivery of the remaining 15 helicopters is set to run through to 2020. Once fully operational, the AW101 SAR force will be deployed across six main operating bases in Norway, replacing the 12 incumbent Westland Sea Kings, which entered service between 1973 and 1993.
Norway placed its GBP1 billion (USD1.63 billion at the time) contract for 16 helicopters (with an option for six more) and 15 years of technical support and training (with an option for a further five years) in December 2013. Leonardo is providing initial support and training services, including spares at each of the operating bases and has recently completed the aircrew training for the initial group of aircrew. It will then provide performance-based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet. Although the cost of the AW101 procurement is given as USD1.63 billion, the total cost to Norway of revamping its SAR capabilities under the Norwegian All-Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) programme is expected to be about USD2.73 billion.
In being selected to fulfil the NAWSARH requirement, the AW101 beat stiff competition from the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal (now Airbus Helicopters H225); with the NHIndustries NH90 and Sikorsky S-92 having already been eliminated at the downselection.
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