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The Joint SAR-H (Search and Rescue Harmonisation) project was established in 2005 to replace the search and rescue helicopter capabilities in the UK currently provided by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. That project envisaged the creation of a single SAR entity that would comprise a mix of civilian and military personnel; while all of the airframes would form part of a commercially owned and registered fleet.

The Soteria consortium was chosen as the preferred bidder for the project in February 2010. However, the project was suspended in June 2010 following a Treasury review of the Government’s major spending projects. An announcement on proceeding with the project had been expected in December 2010. The Government subsequently confirmed that the project would be delayed while issues relating to the bidding process were clarified.

On 8 February 2011 the Government announced that the SAR-H contract had been cancelled after it emerged that irregularities had arisen in the bidding process relating to the consortium that had gone on to win the competition.

After a period of assessment, the Government announced on 28 November 2011 that a new civilian operated search and rescue capability would be established and that military involvement in search and rescue would cease once that capability becomes fully operational.

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