The AW139 rescue helicopter of the Swedish Maritime Authority (Image © Sjöfartsverket)

Purchase maritime rescue choppers Sweden was “pre-fixed”

The purchase of seven AgustaWestland AW139 maritime rescue choppers for 87 million euro by the Swedish Maritime Authority (Sjöfartsverket) in 2012 was “pre-fixed”, according to investigative journalists of Swedish national television’s Uppdrag Granskning. The program is well known in Sweden of bringing injustice and irregularities in the spotlight. Sjöfartsverket denies any wrongdoing.

According to the program makers the requirements for the new rescue helicopter in the bidding process were detailed in such a way that only the AW139 could meet them, while Sjöfartsverket already signed a preliminary deal with the Italian-Anglo helicopter manufacturer. Uppdrag Granskning’s journalists accuse the Swedish authorities of the pre-fix during three different bidding phases. They also question why the details of the helicopter type were so strict that only the AW139 could meet them, while many countries – including the one’s in northern Scandinavia – use several types of helicopters in a rescue role.

Stand-by alert
The first pair of seven AW139s were delivered in September 2013. The choppers – part of the 100 personnel strong Helicopter Unit of the Swedish Maritime Authority – operate from Umeå, Ronneby, Norrtälje, Göteborg and Visby. In the latter the AW139 replaces the final Sikorsky S76 in Spring 2015.

The AW139s are on stand-by alert of 15 minutes, 365 days a year, with the each crew being on duty for a full week in a row. Each year Sjöfartsverket’s helicopters fly about 400 to 500 missions, mostly by the flights based in Göteborg and Norrtälje.

Better safety
Compared to the S76s the new AW139s provide better safety and feature an autopilot / GPS-based autohover. They fly at speeds up to 167 knots, have a better range (485 nautical miles or 900 km) and can carry a bigger load of about 4400 lbs (2000 kg). Standard are two inflatable life rafts with room for twice 17 people and night vision equipment for the 2 pilots, as well as the winch operator and the diver. Normally the AW139s can carry 5 passengers, but up to 9 people is possible.

The choppers are equipped with a terrain warning systems, a collision warning systems, a ship transponder system, and satcom for telephone, e-mail and real-time data traffic. Four movable floodlights, a track light, a search radar and five videocams with recording function are part of the standard configuration.

According to a statement of Sjöfartsverket “no law has been broken” in the purchase of the new helicopter. “There have been substantial flaws in the facts presented by the TV program Uppdrag Granskning. We’ve even had independent experts look at the choice of helicopter, and their conclusions have proven to us that we have acted properly and in accordance to the rules,” writes the Swedish Maritime Authority in a reaction.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger. This story includes technical information provided by Sjöfartsverket
Featured image: The AW139 rescue helicopter of the Swedish Maritime Authority (Image © Sjöfartsverket)