The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has published a notification of intent to procure H145 aircraft from Airbus Helicopters to serve British forces operating in Brunei and Cyprus.
The notification, issued on 13 November 2023, covers the procurement of six H145 helicopters, along with three years of support services, and was stated to have a value of GBP 140 M (EUR 160.8 M) excluding VAT. The aircraft are intended to enter service from 2024.
The MoD specified in its notification that the award of the contract without prior publication of a contract notice in the UK e-notification service is lawful for technical reasons, namely that the H145 is currently in service and certified; is technically suitable to be used for a search and rescue, air transportation and medical evacuation capabilities; and that the procurement can meet the MoD’s timescales.
The intended procurement of the six H145s, to be known as Jupiter HC Mk2s in UK service, covers part of the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement, specifically the five Bell 212s serving with the Army Air Corps’ (AAC’s) No 667 Squadron in Brunei and three Griffon HAR2s operated by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) No 84 Squadron out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus (tasked with search and rescue). The MoD notification did not specify how the procurement of six H145s would be divided to replace the eight helicopters operating in Brunei and Cyprus.
Still outstanding within the NMH requirement is the core of the requirement – the replacement of 23 Puma HC2s operated by the RAF’s No 33 and No 230 squadrons out of RAF Benson in Oxfordshire – as well as six special-forces-roled AS365 N3 Dauphin IIs operated by the AAC’s No 658 Squadron from the Special Air Service barracks at Credenhill in Herefordshire.
The procurement of H145s certainly makes sense from a logistical perspective, as three of the type are already operated under the UK armed forces’ Military Flying Training System regime, where they are known as Jupiter HT1s.
The MoD noted this in its notification, stating that minimising the number of rotary-wing platforms in UK service “maintains maximum operational effectiveness and flexibility across air and ground crews, taking into consideration the existing physical and training infrastructure supporting the fleet as a whole, including utilisation of the skills of existing trained pilots, engineering expertise, in-service support capability and on-going military aviation requirements”.
However, replacement of the Puma HC2 medium transport/support helicopter fleet remains an issue. These aircraft have an official out-of-service date of 2025, which in the absence of any procurement decision is unlikely to be met.
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