UK SECRETARY of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, announced on March 26 that a £1.6 billion contract to provide a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service for the UK had been awarded to Bristow Helicopters Ltd. The contract follows a competition started on November 28,2011, to procure a SAR helicopter service to replace the combined capability provided by the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA) following the collapse of the previous tender under the SAR-H programme. Operations will be introduced progressively from April 2015 with the service scheduled to be fully operational across the UK by July 2017. New helicopters provided by Bristow will replace RAF and RN SAR Sea Kings as well as helicopters operated by civilian contractors on behalf of the MCA. Services under the new contract will operate from between seven to ten years and be managed by the MCA.
THE NEW Year was a tense time in the United States as the country's economy teetered on the edge of the 'fiscal cliff with potentially disastrous consequences (see Shooting Ourselves in the Head, AFM January 2013). President Obama managed to achieve a brief respite and continued to fight to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on whether to employ spending cuts or tax rises to balance America's books. To recap, the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011 to make failing to find a way forward "unthinkable" because of the stringent cuts that would follow, should an agreement between the administration and the US Congress not be reached. The name given to the process is sequestration. At the moment the US is operating under a so-called 'continuing resolution', but that ends on March 27. On March 1 President Obama was obliged to sign a law introducing sequestration, which comes into effect on April 1. "It's just dumb. It's going to hurt," he said.
A PRECAUTIONARY suspension of flight operations for development and test Lockheed Martin F-35Bs was issued on January 18 by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). A similar action was also taken by US Naval Air Systems Command for all production F-35Bs operating at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona and at the production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The decision was made as a result of an incident with an F-35B at Eglin AFB, when a propulsion 'fueldraulic' line failed on one of these aircraft. This line enables actuator movement for the F-35B's vectoring exhaust system. Ground operations with the F-35B continued while investigations were under way and flight operations by the F-35A and F-35C variants were unaffected by the decision, as they are not fitted with the fueldraulic line in question. The line that failed uses fuel, rather than traditional hydraulic fluid, to enable the actuator movement, thereby reducing weight. Officials said there had been no previous issues with the component.
THE US NAVY announced on December 6 that the Danish Government has signed an official letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to buy nine Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and comprehensive logistics support for its Maritime Helicopter Replacement Programme. Valued at 4 billion Kroner ($686 million), the aircraft will be procured via the US Government's Foreign Military Sales programme. Signature of the LOA follows an announcement on November 21 by the Danish Defence Ministry that it had selected the MH-60R to meet the requirement. Denmark is the second country to buy the MH-60R following Australia's purchase of 24 in 2011. Danish deliveries will begin in 2016 and all nine will be delivered by 2018. They will be configured for anti-surface warfare operations, including defending Danish interests in the North Atlantic, executing anti-piracy operations and conducting other missions during international deployments.
POLICE IN Bavaria raided European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS) offices on November 7, 2012, as part of an investigation into whether bribes have been made during the Eurofighter jet sales process in Austria. The HQ of Cassidian and the Eurofighter GmbH office together with other premises in Switzerland and Austria were also raided Prosecutors in Vienna and Munich suspect that around the time a contract was signed with Austria for 18 Tranche 2 Block-8 Eurofighter Typhoons, in July 2003, €128m had been made available by EADS Deutschland GmbH to an Italian individual. He is alleged to have distributed the money to Austrian lobbyists and arms dealers. Investigation documents allege that a complex network of shell-companies had been set up by EADS to bribe businesses as well as civil servants and officials. A total of 18 named individuals are being investigated.