SAPS gets new helicopter

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The South African Police Service (SAPS) has taken delivery of a new H125 helicopter from Airbus Helicopters, and is using it for visible policing operations in Gauteng.

The SAPS said the helicopter was received on 12 December by the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola, at Grand Central Airport in Midrand where Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa is based.

Masemola said the new helicopter would help to bolster the organisation’s crime combatting efforts.

“This helicopter came at the very right time when we are entering the peak of our festive season operations, there is work out there cut for its size. We continue to resource our visible and operational response environment with vehicles and other resources to strengthen our crime combatting efforts. For now, this helicopter will be based in Gauteng to bolster crime combatting operations”, Masemola said.

The H125 (previously called the Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Écureuil) was recently added to the South African aircraft register as ZT-RFP (cn 9265).

The SAPS Air Wing now operates 14 AS350/H125, six R-44 Raven II, two MD500 and one BK 117 helicopters. Fixed wing aircraft include eight PC-6 Turbo Porters (the ninth was destroyed in a crash in August 2022), a PC-12, one King Air C90 and one Citation Sovereign jet. Half the fleet is based in Gauteng, with the remainder scattered 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.

Most Air Wing responsibilities entail responding to crime call-outs. The Air Wing also provides air support during the monitoring of public protests and major events, including support to specialised units such as the Special Task Force, National Intervention Unit and Tactical Response Teams. More than 2 000 airborne law enforcement operations are typically carried out every year, with the majority by helicopters.

With regard to personnel numbers, the SAPS employs about 50 pilots and 300 support staff in the Air Wing.