A collaboration to share air support across the counties of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire was officially launched Friday at Shoreham Airport.
Although the South East Air Support Unit (SEASU) has been operational since October, today marked the start of operations under a single Police Air Operator's Certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Under the agreement there are two helicopters covering the three force areas. This will ensure that Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire are all able to have access to this highly value resource, but at a saving of around £8m for the three authorities over the next five years.
Regional Inspector for SEASU Steve Cheeseman said: "The launch of the regional air support unit has been seven years in the making and we have come up with a model which we believe will effectively serve Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. One of the helicopters will be based in Sussex and one in Surrey but they will both provide cover for all three force areas.
"The use of helicopters gives police a real advantage over criminals on the ground and also allows us to effectively assist in searching for vulnerable missing people. They are an invaluable resource which through this collaboration we hope to continue for many years to come."
Alan Price, Sussex Police Authority's lead member for air support, said: "Collaboration in which 'everybody has won and all must have prizes' is always difficult to achieve. There must inevitably be compromises.
"The fact that all three Forces and authorities have been able to reach agreement on an effective and efficient collaboration with both capital and revenue implications which meets the requirements of all in the important area of air support is a tribute to all those involved in the discussions and negotiations that have lead up to this day.
"I offer my congratulations to all those who have worked hard to make this historic launch of SEASU happen today. I am sure SEASU will continue to develop to meet the changing demands on its service."
(left to right) C/Supt Mark Streeter (Sussex), C/Supt Richard Rowland (Hampshire), C/Supt Paul Morrison (Sussex), ACC Olivia Pinkney (Sussex), Supt Gerry Westerman (Surrey), Dr Jane Pateman (South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust), C/Insp Marion Sandwell (Sussex).
Photos: Sussex Police
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