24-Sep-2015 Source: NPAS
Police air support in the UK is set to become 24/7 all weather capable for the first time with the introduction of fixed wing aircraft into the service’s fleet.
The National Police Air Service has now awarded a contract for four fixed wing aircraft to be based in a purpose built facility, serving the whole of England and Wales.
The four Vulcanair P.68R airframes will have a 24/7 all-weather flight capability following significant upgrades to the airframe.
Each aircraft will also see the addition of sophisticated camera and mapping systems for use during Police tasking.
Once in service they will replace four helicopters currently in use, providing a minimum 80 per cent of the helicopters’ capability with each new plane costing around two thirds less to buy and run than a new helicopter.
The contract to purchase and modify the aircraft has been awarded to Airborne Technologies GmBH (ABT) who will upgrade them with technologies such as Wescam MX10 camera and CarteNav mapping.
The four helicopters which will be replaced by the new aircraft will be made available for commercial sale.
The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson who is the Chair of the NPAS Strategic Board, said:
“This is another milestone in the development of NPAS which is national service I am responsible for delivering along with West Yorkshire Police as the lead bodies.
“We have been successful in securing Home Office capital funding to make NPAS a 24/7 all weather capable fleet and this is a real step change for NPAS. This is an investment in the future of policing across England and Wales.
“While helicopters are very flexible there are conditions which they are sometimes unable to fly, such as heavy fog, if visibility is too badly affected.
“These new aircraft are true all weather machines and can guarantee we can truly operate any time of the day, on all days.
“At approximately one-third of the purchase and operating cost of a helicopter, these aircraft will have as a minimum, 80% of the capability of a helicopter and will be operationally positioned where they are able to deliver maximum benefit.
“The introduction of fixed wing will contribute towards 14% budget savings to the public purse annually.”
Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, The Accountable Officer for NPAS, said:
“Fixed wing aircraft are also capable of being airbourne for longer periods compared with helicopters which means they have an increased range and will potentially be airborne already when assistance is required.
“By operating a mixed fleet of helicopters and aircraft we feel the service will be better balanced than before with a greater mix of capabilities.”