The US Air Force will go ahead with a new rescue helicopter programme to replace its ageing fleet of 100 HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters.

Air Force chief of staff general Norton Schwartz said the Pentagon has supported the helicopter programme, after which the service issued an initial request for information to the industry.

Boeing was initially awarded the contract for the new search and rescue helicopter, based on the USAF’s popular CH-47 twin-rotor helicopter, according to Reuters.

The Air Force later cancelled the competition after government auditors upheld protests filed by Sikorsky.

“The goal was to acquire a somewhat more modest helicopter than in the earlier cancelled programme,” Schwartz said.

“No final decisions have been made on the rules for the competition, but there is a strategic emphasis on using common airframes to lower maintenance and support costs.”