The UK National Police Air Service (NPAS) has awarded a contract to Airborne Technologies of Austria for four police role-equipped fixed-wing surveillance aircraft. Police air support in the UK is set to become 24/7, all-weather capable for the first time with the introduction of the planes into the Service’s fleet, said NPAS. They will be based in a purpose-built facility and serve the whole of England and Wales.
The four Vulcanair P.68R airframes will boast significant upgrades to the airframe. Each aircraft will also see the addition of camera and mapping systems. Once in service, they will replace four helicopters currently in use, providing a minimum 80 per cent of the helicopters’ capability, despite each new plane costing around two thirds less to buy and run than a new helicopter, said NPAS.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, who is the Chair of the NPAS Strategic Board, said: “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.” He added: “While helicopters are very flexible, there are conditions in 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.”
The introduction of fixed-wing aircraft will contribute towards 14-per-cent budget savings to the public purse annually, said Burns-Williamson.
Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, the accountable officer for NPAS, commented: “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.”