Botswana’s Police Air Support fleet of Eurocopter AS350B3 ‘Ecureil” (Squirrel) helicopters have been upgraded for night time missions, giving the force a 24/7 airborne law enforcement and civic response capability.
Under the upgrade contract, Eurocopter South Africa modified the pilots’ instrument panel and the FLIR camera observer’s console to be Night Vision Goggle compliant. The crew are equipped with binocular NVGs specifically designed for helicopter night-time operations.
The NVG system allows the pilot to navigate and fly nap-of-the-earth missions and to take-off, land or perform operations at night, which would otherwise be practically impossible and extremely dangerous.
“This added night-mission capability will be a major benefit to us as we have a responsibility to provide airborne law enforcement over a very large area. It means that poachers and other criminals will no longer be able to hide from us at night, explained the Botswana Police Air Support Unit’s commanding officer, Director Pilane Sebigi.
In 2009, the then newly-established Botswana Police Air Support unit acquired the first of three AS350B3 helicopters from Eurocopter. Since then, they have and logged over 4 000 flight hours and have made a considerable impact in both crime related operations and rescue missions in addition to participating in other civil interventions.
Eurocopter Southern Africa CEO, Fabrice Cagnat said: “We were and remain extremely proud to continue assisting Botswana’s Police Air Support unit. The AS350 B3 has a proven track record in police missions – especially in hot and high conditions – and we are confident that with this valuable night flight enhancement these aircraft will even further make a valuable contribution to safeguarding the safety and security of Botswana and her citizens”.
Other customers and operators of the AS 350 include the South African Police Services Air Wing, which operates a fleet of fourteen AS350 B3s and a B2 version, the Angolan Police, and the Namibia Police.
In addition to the NVG upgrade, Eurocopter is also providing the Botswana Police Air Support Branch with NVG type training for six pilots.