Botswana’s Police force has taken delivery of its first aircraft – two Eurocopter AS350 B3 ‘Ecureil” (Squirrel) helicopters. The two rotorcraft have been assigned to the newly formed Police Air Support Branch.
Delivery of the aircraft follows an order for three AS350 B3s in 2007. The aircraft are fitted with a Carl Zeiss (formerly Denel Optronics) LEO-II-A5-EP Extended Performance (EP) Airborne Observations Systems (AOS), a Spectrolab SX 16 night sun, rescue hoist, cargo swing and external loud hailer system.
Speaking at a ceremony in Gaborone yesterday to mark the occasion, Eurocopter Southern Africa CEO Fabrice Cagnat said the delivery marked “the start – and not the culmination – of a long and mutually fruitful partnership with Botswana.
“Besides supplying these helicopters, we are also delighted to be playing a vital role in developing the skills that are so essential to ensuring that these machines remain effective airborne law-enforcement tools. This includes training for six pilots and technical training for three mechanics.”
Eurocopter also sponsored training by Carl Zeiss Optronics for two LEO system operators. The LEO system incorporates a set of day and night optical sensors and cameras, enabling the helicopter crew to conduct surveillance and to track and intercept suspects in daylight and in the dark.
Cagnat added that the third Squirrel will be delivered to Botswana later this year.
“The Squirrel has a proven track record in police missions especially in hot and high conditions just like those which are so uniquely characteristic of your country,” he told his audience, “and it meets all of the essential basic requirements for airborne policing, including safety, reliability [and] discretion – it has a low noise signature.
He added the type offered pilots and systems operators a low workload. The platform also accommodates “the rapid installation of a wide variety of surveillance and patrol devices.”
A number of AS350 are in operation – or on order – in southern Africa. The South African Police Services Air Wing operates a fleet of twelve AS350 B3s and a B2, the Angolan Police also fly the AS350 while neighbouring Namibia has also selected the helicopter to equip its fledgling Police Air Support unit.
Today more than 190 single-engined AS350 helicopters are operated by 42 police forces in 25 countries around the world. In addition, about 70 twin-engine AS350 variants are operated by 34 police forces in 18 countries.
The AS350 B3 comfortably accommodates up to seven people without compromising performance and was designed specifically with economy and simple, efficient servicing procedures in mind in order to reduce operating and maintenance costs.
Eurocopter, a division of EADS, was established in 1992 and recently had a 53% market share in the civil and parapublic sectors in addition to a 30% share in the total world helicopter fleet. In southern Africa Eurocopter serves a fleet of more than 230 helicopters.