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Helicopters have been fulfilling an important role in the world’s coastguard fleets, especially for search and rescue operations. The UK’s Coastguard is attempting to upgrade its capabilities with the procurement of two AW189s helicopters. They’re outfitted in a SAR configuration and feature the red and white coastguard symbol. The helicopters feature full icing protection, radar, auto hover, night vision systems and infra-red cameras, and are capable of a 165-knot max speed during four hours. Both aircrafts are operated by Bristow Helicopters on behalf of the Coastguard. The list price for one helicopter is $26 million.

The S-92s stationed at Prestwick were utilised as a contingency solution, pending the arrival of the AW189s. Bristow plans to operate 11 S-92 units and 11 AW189s on behalf of the Maritime Coastguard Agency by the end of next year. Russell Torbet, director of UK SAR at Bristow Helicopters, told helicopterinvestor.com: “We’re very pleased to introduce the AW189 SAR aircraft to the Prestwick operation. I have been incredibly impressed by the ethos of our crews and engineers, who have been working very hard to transition the Prestwick base from the S-92 to the AW189, and want to take this opportunity to thank them all.”

The Prestwick base opened January 2017, flying a fleet two S-92s, and has responded to more than 500 calls so far. This makes Prestwick one of the busiest Coastguard bases in the UK. This is the second UK coastguard base to introduce the AW189 into its fleet. The Lee-on-Solent base introduced two aircraft in March. These were the first AW189 SAR helicopters operating in the UK.

Bristow is looking to replace its St Athan, Inverness and Lydd fleets with new AW189 orders. The coastguard’s St Athan base will be replacing its two AW139s with two AW189s in October this year, the Lydd base in March 2018, and Inverness will be replacing its S-92 fleet in October 2018. The Coastguard’s helicopter fleet renewal plan was established in 2015 after a £1.9 billion, 10-year investment contract from the UK government to Bristow.

Bristow was awarded the contract to deliver SAR operations for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2013. It has taken over seven out of ten civilian SAR bases from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy