US-based transport company Bristow Group is to take over Britain's helicopter search and rescue operations, the government announced Tuesday.


The 10-year contract for the Texas firm, worth £1.6 billion, will end 70 years of search and rescue operations by the RAF and Royal Navy squadrons.

The deal, starting from 2015, will see the end of the use of Sea King helicopters - flown by Prince William from his base on Anglesey in North Wales - in search and rescue work.

Under the new contract, 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around Britain, the Department of Transport said.

Ten Sikorsky S-92 twin-engined helicopters will be based - two per site - at Stornoway and Sumburgh in Scotland, and at new bases at airports in Newquay in Cornwall, Caernarfon in Wales and Humberside.

Another ten AgustaWestland AW189s will operate from Lee on Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports.

The 30-year-old Duke of Cambridge, the future Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is a Flight Lieutenant based at RAF Valley on Anglesey, from where he commands missions to help stranded climbers and stricken vessels in the area.