H-3 Sea Kings are used in a variety of roles by the Royal Navy and RAF, from the transport of Royal Marines (Mk 4, Mk 6CR), to search & rescue (Mk 3/3A and Mk 5), Airborne Early Warning (Mk 7), and classic utility roles. These medium helicopters are known for their ability to float, for their ability to fly though icing conditions, and for stability and fine control. One interesting TV show had a Sea King SAR helicopter maneuver its rescue crewman into position, then hover in place while he poured champagne into a glass that was held steady by the TV host on the ground.
Britain’s Sea Kings have been updated with some frequency, and are projected to remain in service until 2016. Many will be replaced by Agusta-Westland’s Merlin helicopter, a variant of the AW101. Until then, these old helicopters need to be maintained, and the Ministry of Defence needed a way to keep the cost under control. Hence the Sea King Integrated Operational Support program (SKIOS).
The SKIOS Program
SKIOS is part of the Partnering and Business Transformation Agreement, a long-term deal announced in 2005 between the UK Ministry of Defense and AgustaWestland. The partnership ties into the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy, and aims to implement full through-life, availability-based maintenance contracts.
Under the SKIOS contract AgustaWestland has responsibility for delivering Sea King Depth Maintenance, 2nd Line Workshop services, spares, and technical support services. AgustaWestland also delivers 1st and 2nd Line Maintenance Services for Search and Rescue Sea Kings stationed at 8 bases: Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk, RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, DST Leconfield in Humberside, Royal Marine Base Chivenor in Devon, RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, RAF Valley in Anglesey, HMS Gannet, and Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falkland Islands.
As part of this process, Finmeccanica subsidiary Agusta-Westland created a consortium with BAE Systems and Thales UK. Vosper Thorneycroft Aerospace, Selex Galileo, and DARA Fleetlands are among the other sub-contractors that perform roles under the SKIOS arrangement, which moved on to a big new contract in 2007 as part of a more comprehensive, availability-based Phase 2.
A companion agreement with Rolls Royce will support the helicopter fleet’s engines as of 2008, and the final SKIOS contract was awarded in 2012. The fleet had been slated for service until 2018, but budget cuts brought the final date forward to 2016.
Contracts & Key Events
Dec 20/12: SKIOS IP3. The UK Ministry of Defence announces a GBP 258 million final phase of the SKIOS contract. The contract includes payments for achieved flying hours and incentive arrangements associated with delivering agreed levels of aircraft serviceability and operational fleet aircraft numbers. Phase 3 will follow on from SKIOS Phase 1 and Phase 2, which provide services up to the end of March 2013. Phase 3 will last until the final helicopters are retired from the fleet in 2016.
Aug 24/10: Training. 846 Naval Air Squadron begins training its Sea King HC4 aircrew on their new FN Herstal M3M 12.7mm door-mounted machine guns, including training with night vision goggles. The .50 caliber M3Ms have been deployed on Lynx helicopters, but their use on the Sea Kings is new. UK MoD.
Dec 22/08: Engines. The UK MoD announces a 10-year, GBP 258 million (about $375 million), full availability-based agreement contract with Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace. It offers guaranteed 24/7 delivery and maintenance of the Gnome turboshaft engines for the 96 Sea Kings in service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, including the UK’s search and rescue fleet, and is the first of its type for helicopter engines between Rolls-Royce and the UK MoD.
Under the terms of the contract Rolls-Royce will undertake all aspects of engine support, including replacement engines as needed to maintain availability targets, and technical support at operating locations and from the Rolls-Royce Operations Centre in Bristol. The contract will be managed from the company’s Bristol site and the Yeovilton air base, with the main repair and overhaul work undertaken at Rolls-Royce facilities in Ansty and Germany.
The contract will be managed at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) site at Yeovilton, Somerset and Rolls-Royce Bristol. Subcontractors facilities will be embedded within the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. UK MoD | Rolls Royce.
Engine support: 10 years
July 14/08: engine parts. Goodrich Corporation announces a 5-year support agreement with the UK Ministry of Defence to cover accessories for the Sea King fleet’s Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft engines. The contract covers engine fuel accessories, actuators and starter motors, as well as technical support for these products. Under the agreement, the MOD sends its equipment to any of 3 Goodrich facilities in the UK and pays a monthly service fee for guaranteed return of serviceable units back into the fleet.
March 17/08: Sub-contractors. Selex Galileo announces that AgustaWestland has selected the Total Support Services (TSS) alliance to provide avionic support to the Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) programme for a further 5 years. The avionics component of the SKIOS program is valued at around GBP 70 million (currently $140.5 million). Rotorhub.
Nov 29/07: SKIOS IP2. UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth [Lab – Coventry NE] announces a 5-year GBP 470 million (about $968 million) contract with AgustaWestland to implement Phase 2 of the Sea King Integrated Operational Support program (SKIOS IP2). The SKIOS contract is expected to cover the remainder of the Sea Kings’ operational lifespan, and will feature a price review after the initial 5-year period; AgustaWestland estimates its potential value at GBP 800 million over a 10-year period.
SKIOS Phase II introduces payment by the flying hour arrangements, emulating the successful IMOS contract for the UK MoD’s fleet of AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin helicopters. SKIOS Phase II also includes an aircraft availability output responsibility for UK military SAR aircraft that provide around the clock SAR cover for the UK and Falkland Islands.
Under the contract the UK MoD will transfer responsibility to AgustaWestland over the next 6 months for Sea King Depth Maintenance located at DARA Fleetlands and the Second Line Workshops activities located at RNAS Yeovilton. AgustaWestland will also become responsible for providing 1st Line Maintenance Services for the Search And Rescue Sea Kings at 8 bases comprising Wattisham Airfield, RAF Lossiemouth, DST Leconfield, RMB Chivenor, RAF Boulmer, RAF Valley, HMS Gannet and Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falkland Islands. As part of those arrangements, SKIOS IP2 transfers to AgustaWestland approximately 300 military and civilian posts that currently provide flight line engineering and logistics support at these locations.
Expected savings to the MoD are about GBP 90 million over 12 years against current support arrangements, in addition to the savings already achieved under Implementation Phase 1 of the program, without any reductions in capability. Parliamentary announcement | AW release.
June 15/05: Sub-contractors. The Avionics Alliance, comprising Finmeccanica’s Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems (Selex S&AS) and Thales UK, has signed a contract with Agusta Westland to provide long-term support for UK Royal Navy Sea Kings. The deal comes under the RAF’s Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) program; Selex S&AS and Thales will provide Agusta Westland with a “reliable avionics arm to deliver total platform support capability”. Flight International.
April 6/05: Agusta-Westland of Cascina Costa di Samarate (near Varese, Italy) receives a 5-year, EUR 300 million euro order to service about 100 British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters. The figure works out to over EUR 750,000 per helicopter per year. Agusta-Westland will be the prime contractor in the SKIOS (Sea King Integrated Operational Support) program. with the British defense ministry. BAE Systems Avionics and Thales UK have established an avionics alliance for all rotary aircraft, and will be responsible for that area within SKIOS.
The group takes responsibility for Sea King transmission, mechanical and avionics support, spares, repairs and technical advice. SKIOS replaces about 60 separate contracts with over 30 different suppliers. and has proved very successful, providing a fast and responsive support service with industry on-site teams at each Sea King main operating base. In the AgustaWestland corporate release, Westland Helicopters Managing Director Alan Johnston said:
“This represents a significant milestone in the provision of partnered support, with the Defence Logistics Organisation, Industry and the Armed Forces all benefiting from the new arrangement. SKIOS firmly places responsibility and shared risk with industry to provide services to assist the Front Line Operators in producing operational helicopters, fit for role, in a timely fashion. SKIOS is expected to become a benchmark for future support concepts, initiatives and policies.”
Additional Readings & Sources
* UK MoD – Joint Helicopter Command aircraft.
* Royal Navy – Sea King MK4
* Royal Navy – Sea King MK5. Search and Rescue. Prince William flies one.
* Royal Navy – Sea King ASAC. Carries a radar for wide-area scans to find incoming aircraft. Also known as the Mk.7.
* Naval-Technology.com: Sea King – ASW / Search And Rescue Helicopter, United Kingdom
* Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm: Merlin ASW Helicopter