The Ugandan Police Air Wing has refurbished its oldest helicopter and commissioned back into service after it was grounded for more than 15 years.
Acquired in 1986, the Bell 206B helicopter was grounded since 2002 following a series of mechanical problems blamed on a lack of comprehensive servicing.
In 2013, it was assessed, rated as scrap and recommended for sale by former police Inspector-General Kale Kayihura but the government vetoed the decision saying it should be refurbished.
The helicopter was refurbished over a period of two years by Ugandan engineers from local aerospace firm Yamasec Private Limited and handed over to the police Air Wing early this month.
Speaking on the acceptance and commissioning event of the helicopter at the police airbase in the town of Kajjansi, Ugandan Police Deputy Inspector-General Sabiiti Muzeyi said the helicopter would help boost the operational capabilities of the force.
Yamasec Chief Executive Officer Captain Baraka Orland said, “This aircraft did not have to be sent to a museum. It can now add onto the existing resources of the police Air Wing. Many gadgets like cameras and search lights can now be fitted to ensure it serves the policing role appropriately.”
The helicopter was refurbished at an estimated cost of Sh10 million ($2 500). Its re-commissioning has increased the number of operational police helicopters to four. These include a Grand New and W-3A Sokol that were acquired from PZL Swidnik, the Polish subsidiary of Augusta-Westland in May 2015.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan Police Air Wing has confirmed that it will by the end of this year take delivery of one fixed wing aircraft and two helicopters from the Italian branch of Augusta-Westland (Leonardo Helicopters).
These include a two twin engine helicopters which were acquired at a combined cost of $23.9 million, while the fixed wing aircraft cost $8.2 million.
According to a Ugandan Police policy statement released in May, the government has since made two separate tranches of payment and will shortly clear the balance on the cost of the aircraft.
The helicopters will be used for law enforcement, surveillance as well as search and rescue missions. The fixed wing aircraft will be used as a VIP transport for police commanders and government officials.
Police spokesperson Emiliam Kayima declined to give further details of the procurement saying it remains classified. However, sources privy to the procurement said the batch includes one each of the GrandNew and W-3A Sokol.
There are no details on the make and model of the fixed wing aircraft.