Three counties to share Suffolk police helicopter

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SUFFOLK’S police helicopter will soon move base and cover most of East Anglia.

The move is part of the creation of a National Police Air Service, being formed to save an estimated £15 million a year.

Currently, Suffolk’s Eurocopter EC135P2i, with the registration G-SUFK, is one of 33 police helicopters based in 30 locations and belonging to individual county forces.

The aim is to reduce that to 23 aircraft from 20 bases, each serving a 20 minute flying range. If one region’s machine is already busy, the next nearest available one will be sent.

The air service will be administered by the British Transport Police, which is the country’s only nationwide police force.

The plan is for Suffolk’s helicopter to serve Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, so it will move from its current base at the Army Air Corps’ Wattisham Airfield to RAF Honington, home of 15Sqn RAF Regiment, to be nearer the three counties’ borders.

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “Details are currently being finalised to reach agreement with Police Forces and Authorities for the precise arrangements on how this new service will operate. ”

Norfolk has been sharing G-SUFK since March and Cambridgeshire Police Authority decided in June to farm out air support to Chiltern Air Support Unit with Suffolk covering the east of the county.

Suffolk was the first county to take delivery of the specially developed police version of Eurocopter’s EC135 in 2009. Five more were subsequently delivered to Central Counties, Cheshire, Chilterns, North Wales and Cleveland forces.

The manufacturers said at the time that it had the latest technology airborne law enforcement and police reconnaissance and surveillance systems, including daylight and thermal imaging cameras, Nightsun search lights, video down-link system and Tetra radios, which will allow easy communication with emergency services on the ground.