Two new Sikorsky S-92A helicopters have been delivered to Mount Pleasant Complex (MPC) in the Falkland Islands, the headquarters of British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI), and are now operational, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation reported on 21 August 2023.
These helicopters, operated by Bristow Group Helicopters, represent a significant upgrade from the previous Sikorsky S-61N platforms that have filled the role of support helicopter in the Falklands for the past seven years on the current contract, DES noted in a press release.
Brought into Mare Harbour by the Falkland Islands Resupply Ship (FIRS), the helicopters and their crews will be on hand to primarily provide a support helicopter capability through the logistical movement of people, spares and supplies around the Falklands.
Earlier this summer Bristow Group started using the Sikorsky S-92A for tasking, marking the start of the withdrawal of the S-61Ns, which have provided vital airmobility to British forces stationed at MPC. Both S-92s are now fully operational, DES stated.
Compared to the S-61Ns, the S-92As are equipped with more modern systems, are more reliable, and can operate in poorer weather conditions than their predecessors.
Further improvements will be made by cross-training engineering staff to service and maintain both aircraft types and aligning shift patterns to allow efficient operations across the entire organisation.
The introduction of the S-92s marks a successful collaboration between DE&S and Strategic Command, which is responsible for running the UK’s network of overseas bases.
“We are proud to have worked collaboratively with our colleagues at Strategic Command and industry to deliver this significant uplift in capability, which will provide a sustained long-term capability in the Falkland Islands,” said Barry Paton, team leader of the Multi Helicopter Platforms delivery team at DES.
Group Captain Grindlay, Deputy Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands, added: “The support helicopter transition is now complete, with Bristow flying people and freight across the Falkland Islands using both new Sikorskys. The second new S-92 arrived recently and has now taken over from the older S-61: a stalwart of these islands.
“This iconic aircraft has now started its well-earned retirement after 40 years of service. Alongside the Leonardo AW189, which provides round-the-clock search-and-rescue (SAR) cover, the new S-92s offer our forces modern aircraft equipped for the challenges of the Falklands environment now and in the future.”
Bristow Group Helicopters also operates the two SAR AW189s at MPC, which became operational in 2016.