26 March 2012

Namibia: Air Wing to Cost Police Millions

Windhoek — The establishment of a fully-fledged Air Wing for the Namibian Police is nearing completion, with a final spending of N$56 million to be made in the current medium expenditure framework period.

Payment for the third helicopter, which the Namibian Police ordered in August last year, will be finalised this year. The next acquisition would be a new fixed-wing aircraft. The information is contained in the latest budget documents.

The Ministry of Finance has budgeted over N$200 million for Nampol to purchase new helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft since 2009, with any outstanding balance to paid out by 2015.

According to the budget documents the objective is to establish an Air Wing for the Namibian Police "that will supply an air support to the police with their task of crime prevention and investigation operations, rapid response to crime incidents, rapid deployment of Nampol personnel, rescue missions, border operations, emergency response and causality evacuation".

The helicopter is an EC145 twin-engine model and is larger than the two choppers bought over the past two years. Its market value is estimated at around N$50 million.

The Inspector-General of the Namibia Police (Nampol), Sebastian Ndeitunga, confirmed to New Era late last year that the Namibian Police "has already signed the contract and was made the first deposit".

Like the first two helicopters, the latest chopper was purchased from the European Eurocopter group, a joint venture company between Germany, France and Spain.

The Police have also put out a subcontracting tender, along with the purchase, for the training of police pilots and engineers.

Eurocopter Southern Africa has promised that the helicopter would be ready for delivery by September this year.

"Manufacture of the rotary-wing aircraft will commence soon at Eurocopter's Donauwörth facility in Germany, where it will be fitted with airborne law enforcement and rescue equipment," the company had earlier said.

Ndeitunga said the idea is to have a fully-fledged Police Air Wing "if budget allows" with helicopters stationed across the country instead of dispatching them from Windhoek every time there is distress.

"Our aim was to have four helicopters with one fixed wing, with that at least the country is covered," said Ndeitunga.

Nampol took delivery of a second Squirrel AS350 B3 model helicopter in 2010, the two choppers are more suitable for search and rescue missions, while the newly-ordered chopper could accommodate between seven and 11 passengers, and could also be used to transport law enforcement troops, dignitaries or be converted into an ambulance when needed.

The existing choppers are under considerable stress, since they have to crisscross the country on various missions.

The police choppers have already been used to airlift tourists from the Fish River Canyon, as well as other search and rescue missions.

Eurocopter says Nampol would be the first sub-Saharan Police force to operate the Eurocopter EC145, which is a top performer in law enforcement and homeland security missions around the globe.

Other law enforcement operators using the EC145 include the London Metropolitan Police Authority, the French Gendarmerie and numerous European, as well as American state police forces.

The multi-mission EC145 has a cruising speed of about 250 kilometres per hour and can fly non-stop for nearly 700 kilometres.

It is also able to operate in poor visibility conditions, because of its night vision goggle-compatible glass cockpit.

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