The Search and Rescue service has been awarded to an American firm, bringing an end to seven decades of service by the military.
Two Wiltshire soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Saturday have been named as Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe
Defence contractor BAE Systems has confirmed it's in talks over a potential merger with the parent company of Bristol-based Airbus.
The Department for Transport has said that under the new contract helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK Search and Rescue region within an hour of take-off than is currently possible.
It added that, based on historic incident data, it is estimated there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 percent (from 23 to 19 minutes).
Presently, approximately 70 percent of high and very high-risk areas within the UK SAR region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85 percent of the same area would be reached within this time frame.
The Department for Transport has confirmed the contract to run the UK's search-and-rescue helicopter service has gone to the US-headquartered Bristow Helicopters.
The plans to privatise search and rescue helicopters were laid originally out by the Labour government in 2006.
The plans were controversial, and designed to replace the ageing Sea Kings that were currently in use.
Soteria SAR was announced as the frontrunning bidder in February 2010, but a year later it was prevented from acquiring the contract due to several issues with the conduct of their bid team, as well as forming part of the coalition government's spending review.
The Sea King helicopter has been in service for over four decades, with a distinguished history with the Search and Rescue service as well as other assignments.
- The Sea King has operated in 10 wars and been involved in 15,000 rescue operations
- It has saved more lives than any other aircraft
- It is reportedly Prince William's favourite aircraft
The government is set to announce that Britain's Search and Rescue service is to be sold off to an American firm.
Up until now, the operation has been run by the RAF, Navy and Coastguard Agency.
The firm will actually be awarded two contracts, because the service has been separated into two parts operating different types of helicopter.
An announcement is expected just before the stock market opens in the morning.
The bodies of two soldiers from Wiltshire, killed in Afghanistan, are due to be flown home this lunchtime (1.30pm).
Sergeant Gareth Thursby, who was 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, who was 18, were shot by a rogue Afghan policeman in Helmand Province on Saturday.
They served with 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, based in Warminster.
The body of Lance Corporal Duane Groom of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards is also being repatriated.
Two Wiltshire soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan have been named.
Sergeant Gareth Thursby, who was 29 and 18 year old Private Thomas Wroe were killed by a man dressed in a local Afghan Police uniform in Helmand Province on Saturday.
Both men were serving with Warminster-based 3rd Batallion the Yorkshire regiment.
Two soldiers from Warminster-based 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment have been killed in Afghanistan.
The soldiers, who haven't been named, were shot by a man wearing an Afghan local Police uniform. It happened yesterday (Saturday) at a checkpoint south of Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand Province.
Their families have been informed.
– Major Laurence Roche, Spokesman, Task Force Helmand
The Yorkshire Regiment has suffered a deep loss today and everyone serving within Task Force Helmand will want to send our condolences to the soldiers’ families and loved ones at this time.