LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A trio of smaller, faster and more powerful Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopters are poised to take flight over Southern California.
Three previously-owned Eurocopter AS 332L1 Super Puma helicopters have been acquired by Los Angeles County for $31 million to staff the sheriff's department's Aero Bureau. The total acquisition, including training and parts, was $47 million, Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
The helicopters are the latest in a long line of aircraft used for the Department's Air Rescue-5 program, the rescue unit of the Aero Bureau. Since 1955, the Aero Bureau began with a Bell 47, making the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department one of the first law enforcement agencies on the West Coast to use helicopters. Piston-engine Sikorsky H-34 (military S-58) helicopters were acquired in the 1970's, followed by turbine-powered Sikorsky S-58T's.
The three new helicopters will replace three former United States Navy Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings that the department acquired in 1998 as parts and support for these aircraft became more expensive and difficult to obtain, according to Nishida.
"They look fantastic in person," Nishida said. "They're very sleek looking and are a little bit smaller than the old ones."
The Super Puma is in fact about 25% smaller than the helicopters they are replacing, but carry the same number of people, sheriff's officials said. They will be employed primarily as rescue aircraft, but their duties will also include SWAT insertions and extractions, Homeland Security support, maritime missions and personnel transport after natural disasters.
Once they are delivered, Nishida says these helicopters will be fully equipped the latest law enforcement technology. The choppers will be fitted with external hoists; nose-mounted, forward-looking infrared cameras – a first for a department rescue helicopter; night-vision compatible cockpits and multi-patient medical interiors.
For safety, these helicopters will be equipped with Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System/Terrain Awareness and Warning System (EGPWS/TAWS). The cockpits of these Super Pumas will also be equipped with GPS, instrument flight rules (IFR) capability and weather radar.
"The Super Pumas are equipped with advanced technological enhancements that will enable the Air Rescue 5 personnel to maintain the highest operational capability and the ability to fly in nearly all weather conditions," Sheriff Lee Baca said in a statement.
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