The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is doubling its air force.
With the help of the U.K. government, the agency is purchasing a second helicopter. It is expected to be in use by mid- to late 2019.
Officials said the new chopper will boost Cayman’s capability in the areas of search and rescue, law enforcement and border protection operations. The aircraft will also be used to respond to disasters and other emergency situations in the other U.K. Caribbean Overseas Territories.
The new H145 helicopter is manufactured by Airbus, as was the EC135 model which the RCIPS has been using since March 2010.
Unlike the current helicopter, the new one is equipped with a winch capability that can be used in rescue operations. It also has a search and radar system.
The U.K.’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will pick up 25 percent of the US$11 million cost, with the Cayman Islands Government paying the rest. The aircraft can carry up to eight passengers and can perform as an air ambulance for medical evacuations and transport.
Police officials said the operation of two helicopters will provide a year-round 24/7 capability for its aviation unit and the ability to assist other territories in the region in times of crisis and disaster.
The details of the purchase were announced Friday by Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and Two new tactical flight officers are being recruited from within the RCIPS and an additional pilot will also join the aviation team. In addition, one of the existing flight officers will be sent to National Helicopters in Trinidad for a three- to four-year period to train and obtain flying hours in order to become a pilot captain before returning as the first Caymanian helicopter pilot with the RCIPS.
Premier McLaughlin said in a statement, “I’m very happy that we are moving forward with a second helicopter and I thank the Governor’s Office for their assistance and the U.K. Government, in particular Lord Tariq Ahmad, for partnering with us. This helicopter will provide invaluable support to our newly formed Coast Guard agency and the broader national security agencies.
“This addition to our aerial support will also position us as a centre of excellence with capability and capacity in supporting security, law enforcement, and disaster response for our Caribbean Overseas Territories.”
Governor Martyn Roper described the acquisition of the helicopter as a “proud moment for Cayman.”
“The importance of the role played by the Air Operations Unit in the Cayman Islands is clear. The ability to provide air cover for RCIPS ground units, to help rescue people at sea and to transport critically ill patients from the Sister Islands is critical to the safety of everyone. The unit also showed its capability and willingness to deploy overseas last year to support relief operations following Hurricane Irma. This has been recognised and the Unit will now take on a wider regional role.”