Norway Opens Up Its SAR Helicopter CompetitionMar 13, 2012 15:01 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In September 2001, the NH90 medium helicopter was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, serving the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Norway’s share was up to 24 machines: 14 NFH naval variants (6 for Norwegian ships and 8 for the coastguard), with an option for 10 more Search & Rescue machines. The follow-on SAR contract would replace Norway’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet.
At the time, DID reader and correspondent Endre Lunde noted warnings from people in the rescue service that the mid-range NH90 lacked the range and capacity required. Some Norwegians also pointed to Denmark’s departure from the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, precisely because they felt they needed the larger EH101 for the SAR role. Norway certainly has a lot of territory to cover. Its own long and deep maritime economic zone over the treacherous North Sea includes shipping, fishing, and abundant oil; and the American withdrawal from Keflavik AFB Iceland is stretching Norway’s patrol zones toward that country. Sikorsky’s Norwegian agent “Aircontactgruppen” has even taken the Norwegian government to court twice, demanding an open competition for the SAR helicopter contract. In 2007, they received their wish. What no-one has received yet, is a contract:
On Feb 1/07, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice announced that Norway’s option to buy 10 SAR versions of the NH90 would be allowed to lapse. Instead, they created the NAWSARH open competition, to begin in fall 2007.
If everything goes according to current plans, that competition will take 13 years from start to finish. An initial value was between 2-3 billion NOK (then about $320-480 million), with an expected in-service phase-in between 2011-2014, was supplanted as requirements changed. By 2008, Iceland had confirmed that it would be part of the program. The current requirement is for up to 19 helicopters, with an initial buy of 11 (10 Norway, 1 Iceland), and options to buy up to 8 (6 Norway, 2 Iceland).
Mere selection of the qualified bidders took until 2012, however, and the current plans calls for initial delivery by 2016, and full capability by 2020.
Expected competitors beyond the NH90 included:
AW101 Merlin. A larger, 3-engined AgustaWestland machine, whose civilian and military versions both serve in SAR roles. They were a confirmed bidder, with a local advocacy page. Military customers nearby include Britain and Denmark. The AW101′s positives included 3-engine reliability, and excellent range and carrying capacity. Potential issues include a history of low in-service rates, which extends across several militaries.
EC225 Cougar. Eurocopter’s civil EC225 Cougar is a familiar sight in Norway’s offshore oil & gas industry, and the French use its EC725 military counterpart as their Combat SAR platform. Positives include a notable civil record, an excellent local support network, rock-steady auto-hover even in extreme conditions, and good marks from pilots. Potential issues include range and cabin size.
S-92 Superhawk. Sikorsky’s twin-engine H-92 Superhawk is slightly larger than the NH90. It is used by British search-and-rescue partnerships, was picked by South Korea in 2012, and is well known in the offshore oil & gas industry. About half of the type’s flying hours by 2009 had been logged in Norway, with 15 civil-owned machines in country. Positives include strong survivability features, a notable civil record, good commonality with the popular H-60 family, and an excellent local support network. Its potential issue involves questions about its engine power, and whether it could perform to the same level as the NH90. The H-92 option was represented by Norway’s Aircontactgruppen AS, who played a key role in forcing the competition open.
While US NAVAIR responded to the original RFI, Boeing’s 2 options don’t appear to have been a factor in this competition. Either they did not bid, or were not pre-qualified.
Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook, won a combat SAR competition in the USA before CSAR-X was canceled, and is used by American special forces, was discussed as an early option. It certainly has the heft and capacity Norway needs. On the other hand, the HH-47 uses mostly metal construction, and may have a higher maintenance burden in a predominantly maritime environment.
US NAVAIR reportedly responded with Bell/Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, which offers a unique combination of speed and range. It also has a very strong rotor downwash that can be a problem in civil rescue situations, and a long and difficult service record that includes high maintenance costs and high-profile crashes. It has reportedly drawn some interest from Canada as a possible SAR aircraft, after beginning to prove its operational capability in Afghanistan, but was always seen as an outsider in the Norwegian competition.
Contracts & Key Events
Feb 15/12: Competitors pre-qualified. The Norwegian MoJPS announces that AgustaWestland (AW101), Eurocopter (EC725), NH Industries (NH90) and Sikorsky (H-92) have all been pre-qualified as the competitors for the NAWSARH joint RFP.
“The work to finalize the tender documentation is ongoing. The tentative plan is that the tender documents will be submitted to the Prequalified Candidates early April 2012. It is expected to have the first helicopters delivered during 2016 and Sea King phased out within the end of 2020.”
See also NH Industries.
Feb 2/12: NAWSARH leadership changes. Project leader Kjell Jacob Johannessen steps back from the project, after his son’s position changes within a potential NAWSARH supplier. Deputy project leader Rune Haver will temporary be acting project leader. Norway MoJPS.
Oct 24/11: NAWSARH pre-qualification. Norway announces a pre-qualification process for bidders on its NAWSARH join project with Iceland. At the same time, Iceland’s Rikiskaup (State Trading Centre) publishes their procurement process on behalf of the Icelandic Ministry of Interior. The initial buy would be 11 helicopters (10 Norway, 1 Iceland), with options for 8 more (6 Norway, 2 Iceland).
March 3/11: Civil SAR interim. Norway’s MoJPS will be relying on civil Search And Rescue helicopter services from 2014-2020, in order to provide these critical services until the NAWSARH helicopters are ready. But they won’t be buying them:
“The acquisition of backup capacity from a civil SAR- helicopter service provider based on the whitepaper St.prp. 80 S (2010-2011) will be performed by the Norwegian armed forces, thus have no directly link to the NAWSARH project.”
Industry Day #4 happens on June 20/11, and #5 happens on Nov 10/11.
Oct 14/10: The Norwegian government clarifies further:
“In practice, this means that the future helicopters must have the capacity to fly between 220 Nm and 270 Nm in two hours and pick up 20 people… It is also worth noting that the above has been expressed as a minimum ambition, and if the range of the relevant helicopter candidates is greater than the minimum requirement, this will be weighted accordingly in the further work… As a point of interest: today’s Sea Kings are able to reach 53 Nm out from the straight baseline and pick up 20 persons in distress.
…To the best of our knowledge, there are no other countries that have equivalent or higher ambitions for their rescue helicopter service than the one currently presented by the government, especially taking into consideration the 24 hour on-site duty arrangement. The Ministry of Justice will continue the work with the acquisition process and does not have any preference for particular helicopter candidates.”
Sept 27/10: Delay and Requirements. The Norwegian government has pushed its timelines back, and now hopes to field new search and rescue helicopters by 2020:
“The government’s objective is to have capacity to begin rescue of 20 people in distress within a range of 150 nautical miles directly out from the straight baseline within two hours. In addition, they must be able to assist two people at the far perimeter of the Norwegian search and rescue region… The acquisition process is being continued. It is based on the recommended multi-mission concept consisting of a uniform fleet of 15 to 20 large helicopters (weighing 10-20 tonnes)… The future rescue helicopters will also continue the mission of the current helicopters, such as air ambulance (Medevac) and other services vital to society… The concept has been reviewed by HolteProsjekt AS and Econ Analyse AS as part of the external quality assurance. The total life cycle costs for the new helicopter fleet from procurement until 2050, is estimated to be in the region of NOK 29 – 39 billion [DID: $4.8 - 6.5 billion].”
See also the concept study “Forstudie for ny the rescue helicopter capacity (Pre-study of new rescue helicopter capacity),” prepared by the Rescue department in the Ministry of Justice, and the External quality assurance report.
May 7/09: Candidates? A Teknisk Ukeblad article [in Norwegian] lists the NAWSARH competitors as the NH90, AgustaWestland’s AW101, Eurocopter’s EC725 Cougar, Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk, and Bell/Boeing’s V-22 Osprey.
Sept 3/08: Iceland, too. Delegations from Norway and Iceland meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, and decide that the Norwegian-Icelandic cooperation on acquiring rescue helicopters will continue. This cooperation is based on the Nov 30/07 agreement on new rescue helicopters, signed by Iceland’s Minister of Justice Bjørn Bjarnason and Norway’s Minister of Justice Knut Storberget. Norwegian Ministry of Justice.
Feb 13/08: NAWSARH RFI. Norway’s Ministry of Justice releases the NAWSARH RFI.
May 16/07: Terje Moland Pedersen, the State secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police announces that they will conduct a seminar for interested vendors at the Paris Airshow on June 18/07. The Ministry of Justice and the Police (MoJ) is responsible for the acquisition program. Quote:
“It is of vital importance that the acquisition program lead to multi engine, long range, wide capacity all weather SAR helicopters suitable for operation over the Norwegian waters in harsh weather condition and in the Norwegian topography with high mountains and low temperatures. It is equally important that these helicopters are equipped with state of the art search and rescue equipment and built to the latest safety standards. The program plan has targeted the implementation phase to be 2011 – 2014.”
Those interested in actual details and requirements will have to be in Paris.
Feb 22/07: Iceland, too? The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police announces that the NAWSARH project (Norwegian All Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter) project could become a joint acquisition. Iceland can no longer rely on American helicopters, now that the USA has abandoned Keflavik AB, and is reportedly looking for 3 new all-weather helicopters of its own, pushing a joint buy to 13-15 machines. The project is expecting to release an RFP in 2009. Ice News.
Feb 1/07: Competition opened. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice announces [Norwegian] that Norway won’t use its option to buy 10 SAR versions of the NH90, contradicting repeated assurances to date that the NH90 would be their SAR choice. Instead, they are announcing that an open competition is set to be held between potential suppliers in fall 2007. The contract has a value of between 2-3 billion NOK (currently about $320-480 million), with an expected in-service phase-in between 2011-2014.
- Norwegian Ministry of Justice – The NAWSARH Project
- Norwegian Ministry of Justice (Feb 1/07) – En best mulig redningstjeneste
- Aircontactgruppen (Feb 1/07) – Partial English translation of the government release.
- Flight International (March 27/10) – Norway to Re-open Contest for SAR
- UK Health and Safety Executive (2003) – RR48 – A review of Norwegian offshore based search and rescue helicopter operations
- NH Industries (Sept 13/01) – NSHP Committee Selects The Nh90 Helicopter For Finland, Norway, And Sweden
- NH Industries. This joint venture by EADS Eurocopter, AgustaWestland, and Stork Fokker came together to make the NH90.
- Vectorsite – EH101 and NH90
- AgustaWestland – AW101. See also AW101 SAR brochure [PDF]
- AgustaWestland Norway – AW101: Et Redninghelikopter for Norge
- Eurocopter – EC225.
- Aircontacsgruppen – Sikorsky S-92
- Sikorsky – S-92 Superhawk. The S-92 civilian version also comes in a specific SAR version.
- DID – British Helicopter Search-and-Rescue’s Future: Civilian Contractors
- DID FOCUS Article – CSAR-X: And Boeing Makes One… HH-47 Wins $10B Competition (updated). Covers the USA’s next-generation Combat Search And Rescue helicopter choice.