[h=1]Bristow Group 'to take over UK search and rescue'[/h] Bristow has been awarded a fill-in contract to operate rescue A US-based company is to take over Britain's helicopter search and rescue operations, the BBC understands. A statement due before the London stock exchange opens on Tuesday is expected to confirm the Bristow Group has won the contract from 2015 to 2026. It is understood the firm is planning to replace ageing RAF and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters with modern Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestland 189s. The contract will bring to an end 70 years of UK military search and rescue. After 2017, military involvement in search and rescue will cease and a new civilian contract will come into force. Bristow has already been preparing crews for coastguard duties at Sumburgh in Shetland and Stornoway in the Western Isles. The UK's military and coastguard search and rescue helicopter service is also based at Culdrose, Wattisham, Valley, Boulmer, Portland, Lee-on-Solent, Chivenor, Leconfield, Lossiemouth and Prestwick. A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "The department has been going through the procurement process and we're due to make an announcement soon." The department began the procurement process in November 2011 for providing search and rescue (SAR) helicopter services on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It wanted all-weather SAR helicopter service able to operate throughout the UK, including mountainous terrain and at sea. According to Bristow's website, its helicopters and pilots have already rescued more than 7,000 people in the UK. It also operates in the Netherlands, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Russia, Brazil and Canada. BBC News - Bristow Group 'to take over UK search and rescue'