It’s blue skies ahead for Victoria Police, with the first of four state-of-the-art aircraft now ready and raring to provide tactical support to frontline police from above.
Following a tender and procurement process, the Victoria Police Air Wing has welcomed the first of four new aircraft to its Essendon Fields base.
The final two helicopters and a fixed-wing plane are due in the coming months and the quartet will replace the unit’s existing midrange utility choppers.
The 7 tonne Leonardo AW139 helicopters, provided by StarFlight Victoria, have advanced infrared camera and mapping systems, as well as improved object detection software to assist with marine and land-based searches.
Air Wing Inspector Craig Shepherd said the helicopters afforded greater power and longer endurance than their 4.8 tonne predecessors and could also seat three times as many people.
“We’re a support service for all other responding units across Victoria Police,” Insp Shepherd said.
“Having the extra capability and technology in our helicopters means we can deliver more police officers to jobs and provide greater support to ground units.
“It enables us to strengthen our community response as incidents are unfolding and provide increased surveillance where required.”
The fixed-wing Beechcraft Super King Air 350ER, acquired from Skytraders, will be the first plane to be used by Victoria Police for over 20 years.
While the plane boasts the same camera and mapping equipment as the helicopters, it also has the added advantage of being able to remain airborne for more than 10 hours, negating the need for refuelling along the way.
“This will greatly support our response to rural and regional areas that require assistance from the Air Wing,” Insp Shepherd said.
“We can task our members to cover more areas and effectively provide a better service across Victoria through an uninterrupted viewing platform.”
The Victoria Police Air Wing has been operating since the mid-1970s and responds to more than 5000 jobs a year.
It supports a range of functions including callouts for search and rescue, crime prevention and detection, ground unit direction, surveillance and rapid deployment of specialist units including tactical police, Dog Squad units, Search and Rescue and Water Police.
The unit also assists across geographic areas that can’t be easily navigated on foot due to steep or mountainous terrain.
The expansion of the Victoria Police Air Wing has been funded as part of the Victorian Government’s 2017 Community Safety Statement.