The Search and Rescue service has been awarded to an American firm, bringing an end to seven decades of service by the military.
Crew from HMS Somerset march through Bath after returning to Plymouth
There were emotional scenes at Devonport docks earlier today as families welcomed home their loved ones from a six month deployment.
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.
HMS Enterprise has sailed from the South West to the Middle East for nine months on operations. The Plymouth-based Royal Naval survey ship will be deployed protecting the nation’s interests and contributing to the safety of military and civilian shipping.
The ship sailed from Falmouth with a new survey motor boat called Spitfire. The nine-metre boat doubles the mother ship’s ability to collect data. The ship has been in the Cornish port for the last month conducting work on the davit used to lift the boat in and out of the water.