Botswana inks deal with Enstrom for three 480B helicopters


Enstrom Helicopter has confirmed that Botswana has ordered three Enstrom 480B turbine helicopters for its police force, with a delegation from Botswana at the beginning of February visiting the Enstrom factory.

The contract for the three aircraft was signed at Heliexpo 2020, which ran from 27 to 30 January in Anaheim, United States. The official signing took place between Safomar, the local agents for Enstrom, and Enstrom, with VIP dignitaries from the Botswana police present. This included Keabetswe Makophe, the commissioner of police for the Botswana Police Service.

Safomar Aviation, the Enstrom dealer in South Africa, was awarded the tender after flight demonstrations, sales support, maintenance capability and contract negotiations. The new helicopters will be customized to the Botswana Police Service specifications and include Trakka Systems day/night cameras and searchlights, navigation and communication equipment, cargo slinging and light emergency medical systems. Apart from specialist police duties, the aircraft can be quickly configured for the passenger role and carry three to five people.

“The versatility and flexibility of the helicopter configuration allows the Botswana Police to fulfil a host of missions, including training, crime prevention, wild life conservation, medical evacuation, command and control, and search and rescue,” said Shai Shalem, managing director of Safomar Aviation. The three 480Bs are scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of this year.

“We believe the Enstrom 480B will be a great addition to the Botswana Police fleet.” said Dennis Martin, Director of Sales and Marketing at Enstrom. “We are looking forward to a long relationship with them.”

Several days after Heliexpo, the Botswana delegation visited Enstrom’s facility in Menominee, Michigan. The Chinese-owned company is this year celebrating 60 years of existence.

The Botswana project includes not only the delivery of helicopters but a full range of installed mission equipment, training, tooling, spare parts, maintenance and on-going support services.

News of the Botswana contract first emerged at the beginning of December 2019, when Safomar announced Botswana would be getting three Enstrom 480Bs in early to middle 2020, which will join its fleet of Airbus models.

The Enstrom 480B multi-role light turbine helicopter is in service in more than 30 countries and this includes with the Indonesian National Police, Japanese Ground Self-Defence, Royal Thai Army, Colombian Air Force, Chilean Army, US Police departments, Venezuela Air Force etc.

The type first flew in 1989 and entered service in 1993. It is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250-C20W turbine producing 313 kW although maximum continuous power is 206 kW. This gives a maximum speed of 230 km/h and endurance of five hours.

In 2009 the newly established Botswana Police Service Air Support branch acquired an initial three AS350 B3s from Eurocopter, as it then was, and these were upgraded for night operations with a forward-looking infrared camera and modified pilots’ instrument panel and observer’s console that were night vision goggle compatible. They were fitted with LEO-II-A5-EP Extended Performance (EP) Airborne Observations Systems (AOS), a Spectrolab SX 16 night sight, rescue hoist, cargo swing and external loud hailer system.

One of the helicopters crashed in April 2014, killing all three on board, and another crashed in July 2016, injuring the six occupants. In January 2015, Botswana ordered another three AS 350 B3es from Airbus Helicopters. All four AS 350s (H125s) are regularly used for anti-poaching duties, amongst others. They are based at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone.