British Government stops VIP helicopter contract

British Government stops VIP helicopter contract


The British Government has decided not to renew a contract whereby a commercial operator supplies the Ministry of Defence with a helicopter for VIP use –  including the Prime Minister, Ministers, Senior Military Officers, and Government Officials.  The contract is known as RWCSAT – Rotary Wing Command Support Air Transport. A tender was issued for a renewal of RWCSAT for five years with one option year, initially “to be delivered as soon as practicable following 1 Apr 23”, but after a further six month extension on the current contract, bidders were advised that the process was withdrawn and no contract was awarded.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told “As part of ensuring available funds are prioritised on key areas, the capability will be removed, and essential senior travel fulfilled by other means.”.  The current contract for the RWCSAT contract will end on 30 September.

It is unclear whether any environmental or political agenda has caused the UK Ministry of Defence to make this decision.  The MoD is also not providing any details on how they will fulfil this role going forward – considers it unlikely to be rolled into the NMH “New Military Helicopter” proposal, which seeks to provide a single platform to replace Puma, Griffin (Bell 412), Bell 212 and Dauphin.

Prior to 2006, the VIP flight was run by 32 Squadron of the Royal Air Force using Gazelle helicopters.  From that point onwards, the UK Government created a contract whereby a commercial operator supplied and flew suitable helicopters on military registrations.  The contract allowed civil-registered helicopters of the same type to substitute if the primary (military registered) aircraft was/were not available.  It was also a requirement to carry out line maintenance for the contracted aircraft at RAF Northolt, an airfield six miles north of London’s Heathrow Airport and under the control of the Royal Air Force as its name suggests.

Although the contract has gone though various tenders and renewals over the 17 years it has been run, Sloane Helicopters has been the chosen operator throughout.  In the early years three Leonardo A109E Power helicopters were used, and from late 2015 one AW109SP GrandNew has been flown – image below

Sloane Helicopters is now advertising the current AW109SP GrandNew for sale.  The aircraft has 2726 airframe hours

RAF Image by: Cpl Ben Tritta



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