Armscor seeking troop carrying helicopter for the SAPS

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Armscor has issued a tender for a ‘troop carrying helicopter’ for the South African Police Service (SAPS) as the police bolster their aerial resources.

The helicopter, to be delivered to the South African Police Air Wing Heliport in Pretoria West, must be supplied by either the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or an OEM-authorised supplier.

The Armscor tender stated the helicopter needs to be a twin turbine design (850 hp per engine) certified for single pilot visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) operations by day and night. It needs to be in the 3 180 to 5 670 kg weight class able to transport one pilot and at least eight passengers for three hours with a 20 minute reserve.

Performance specifications include a maximum speed of 130 knots (240 km/h), fast cruise of at least 120 knots (222 km/h), maximum range of at least 350 nautical miles (648 km), and minimum useful load of 2 200 lb (997 kg). Service ceiling should be in excess of 12 500 feet (3 810 metres).

As the helicopter will be required to operate in dusty and corrosive conditions, it will need to be fitted with sand or barrier filters.

Other requirements include a rotor brake, oil and gearbox chip detectors, jettisonable front doors, removeable or foldable cabin seats, night vision goggle compatible cockpit instrumentation, skid landing gear, provision for a search light, cargo sling hook, fast roping equipment, and hoist attachment.

Defence Industrial Participation (DIP) requirements come into play should more than $2 million be remitted overseas, or $10 million in the case of National Industrial Participation (NIP).

Closing date for the helicopter tender (ECAC/2023/117) was 5 March 2024.

Armscor has also issued a tender for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the SAPS.

The state-owned defence materiel agency has overseen the procurement of new helicopters for the SAPS Air Wing, with Business Day reporting seven are being acquired for R400 million.

So far, three Airbus Helicopters H125 light utility rotorcraft have been delivered to South Africa, with the first (ZT-RFP) being received by the SAPS in December 2012. Another two (ZT-RFT and ZT-RFU) were accepted on 1 September 2023.

At the time of their handover, SAPS National Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, said the aircraft would “provide crucial air support to police on the ground,” with their primary focus being on tracking and tracing suspects in high-risk incidents such as cash-in-transit (CIT) heists, armed robberies, hijackings and other serious and violent crimes.

Armscor has a service level agreement (SLA) with the SAPS for the new rotorcraft. The SLA includes “acquisition and procurement services to achieve synergy across the [Cabinet] security cluster departments”.

Armscor on behalf of the SAPS was tasked with disposing of 13 of the Air Wing’s 13 BO 105 helicopters, grounded in 2017. A single private buyer acquired seven as part of an Armscor tender last year. Armscor previously facilitated the purchase of six R44 helicopters for the SAPS, delivered from 2008 onwards.

The SAPS Air Wing now operates 16 AS350/H125 helicopters. Airbus says its H125 is “a multi-mission workhorse” with manoeuvrability, excellent visibility and low in-cabin vibration levels. The rotary wing aircraft has a flat floor that can be quickly and easily reconfigured for missions including aerial work, firefighting, law enforcement, rescue, air ambulance, passenger transport and others.

Other rotorcraft in the SAPS fleet include six R-44 Raven IIs, two MD500s and a BK 117. Fixed wing aircraft include eight PC-6 Turbo Porters (the ninth was destroyed in a crash in August 2022), a PC-12, a King Air C90 and a Citation Sovereign jet. Half the fleet is based in Gauteng with the remainder deployed throughout the country.

SAPS aircraft are used in policing operations including crime prevention, vehicle tracking and pursuit, dagga plantation spraying, crowd control and monitoring, VIP transport and search and rescue operations. Some are equipped with hoists, cameras, searchlights and slings.