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 Government has confirmed that work to develop and upgrade Merlin helicopters made by Agusta Westland of Yeovil wll go ahead. They will replace existing Sea Kings from 2016 and be based at RNAS Yeovilton.