Botswana’s Police Service yesterday signed a contract for three AS350 Squirrels from Airbus Helicopters, for delivery later this year, as well as training for pilots and mechanics.
The agreement was signed between members of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) and Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa. Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa general manager, Arnaud Montalvo, said: “We are proud to continue our relationship with the Botswana Police Air Support Unit and that it has selected the AS350 B3e, which has a proven pedigree in police missions — especially in hot and high conditions typical of the much of Botswana. We are confident these aircraft will make an enormous contribution to safeguarding the citizens of Botswana and their property.”
The helicopters will feature night vision equipment for night operations. In 2009 the newly established Botswana Police Service Air Support Branch acquired an initial three AS350 B3s 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.
The further acquisition of helicopters comes partly in response to increased demands for police helicopters and to replace an AS350 that crashed in April last year, killing all three people on board.
The BPS Air Support Branch had five helicopters in 2009 – three Eurocopter AS350 B3s delivered between 2008 and 2009 and two older Bell helicopters, but the latter two are presently unserviceable.
The first three AS350s were fitted with a Carl Zeiss 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.
Worldwide, to date, Airbus Helicopters has sold more than 5 800 Ecureuil (Squirrel) family aircraft (4 900 are in service), – including more than 1 600 (1152 B3/476 B3e) B3 series machines – to some 1 800 operators in 120 countries, including numerous law enforcement and civic agencies. The police forces of South Africa, Namibia and Angola have also purchased AS350s.