UK backs CIG plans for new multi-use chopper

| 31/10/2018 | 37 Comments
Cayman News Service

RCIPS helicopter

(CNS): Governor Martyn Roper may have arrived in the Cayman Islands at a time when the relationship between the UK government and the local administration is strained, but he has come with some good news over expanding the RCIPS Air Operations Unit and adding a new multi-use helicopter. Speaking to the media on his first evening in Cayman, Roper spoke about the UK support and help for Cayman to acquire a chopper that can be used for medivacs, regional emergencies, search-and-rescue operations, as well as crime fighting.

Roper said Britain was happy to support the project as the new helicopter could be used in other regional territories for disaster response. The goal is to have a more sophisticated helicopter that will be appropriately fitted to help with a wider menu of potential missions.

If funding is approved, the plan is to base the machine in Grand Cayman under the control of the RCIPS to support and expand the work of the AOU, but it will also be used in the event of a hurricane or other disasters in other British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, as was the case last year.

Roper noted the possible investment by the UK in his first speech in Cayman on Monday, when he told the Legislative Assembly that he would be focusing his attention on Cayman’s safety and security.

Following recent comments by the premier that the Cayman government may be investing in a second chopper for the new Cayman Islands Coast Guard, Roper said the UK and Cayman were now in talks about a joint project to acquire and operate a second helicopter for the RCIPS that could be used by other agencies and other territories.

“If approved, it would not only be used to provide greater resilience to the Cayman Islands but also to support vital operations for disaster relief and law enforcement in the other overseas territories, as we saw last year,” Roper added.

At a reception at Government House on Monday evening, he told CNS he was very pleased that discussions were underway for the multi-use helicopter, which he was confident would be purchased once the process was complete. It is understood that the Cayman Islands public purse will fund most of the costs, with a contribution from Britain.

When Cayman purchased the RCIPS’ existing helicopter, which has since been modified to expand its capabilities, it quickly became the subject of a financial scandal, causing headaches for the 2005-2009 PPM administration, which claimed they had been misled in the pitch for the machine by then police commissioner Stuart Kernohan over what the chopper would be able to do.

But almost a decade later after the decision was made, the police helicopter is considered one of the RCIPS’ best crime fighting tools, having been instrumental in cracking major cases by providing a safer way to track suspects fleeing at high speeds and tracking drug interdiction operations at sea.

The chopper has also played an important role in search-and-rescue operations, as well as airlifting patients during medical emergencies at sea or from the Sister Islands.

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Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Let the Coast Guard have there own helicopter and the police keep there own. Police Commissioner just wants to have control over Coast Guard operations, how is that going to work? Governor off to bad start I see.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If it helps save lives then go for it. Rather spend money on this than a stupid boardwalk you can’t even use.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A helicopter is the wrong hardware choice in 2018. For the same cost and a fraction of the annual recurring running costs, we could have a squadron of long range, high endurance fixed-wing UAVs actually patrolling our territorial perimeter with hours of loitering capability – performing SAR and tracking suspicious vessels, vehicles, and people. Depending on the avionics package, some of these are less than $100k per unit. Many are made in the UK and are launchable and retrievable from the JMU vessels while under power at sea. Let’s understand the scale of the grid, and not go back in time with inferior technology to our foes.

    • Anonymous says:

      And is there a UAV that will do CASEVAC or ASR? Nope! You need a helicopter for that.

      • Anonymous says:

        You need something, but you need to justify why existing resources available locally and not just belonging to CIG, including fixed-wing airplanes and boats, can’t fill the role once the UAV has identified the rescue site, e.g., found the missing boat.

        This is all about what is the most efficient and economical way to do the jobs identified. And a helicopter may, or may not, be the right answer. If it is then it should be easy to prove it with some hard numbers, especially based on actual work of the existing helicopter.

        • Anonymous says:

          When you get a disaster, the only thing anyone wanted in Irma and Maria throughout the Caribbean and Florida was helicopters. It’s all anyone wants when emergencies arise, including search and rescue. UAV’s have their place, but not in this scenario.

          • Anonymous says:

            Florida – ‘swiftwater’ rescue teams, i.e., guys in shallow draft boats. they can go places for people and in weather where a helicopter can’t.

            So, no, helicopters are not ALL anyone wants. Especially not in Cayman (or most other Caribbean island) post-hurricane rescue scenarios. in fact, if your’e going to use post-hurricane rescues as a use/costing case then you’ve just proven that a helicopter is not the most economical, efficient or effective tool for the job. Thank you.

      • Anonymous says:

        We don’t have any active combat zones requiring urgent Casualty Evac coverage, that’s when you might want to use one of the helicopters already here in service (one RCIPS and one CI Helicopters), or call one of the heavy-lift choppers from friendly regional patrolling navies and coast guards to come save the day. Air Sea Rescue for lost/missing fishermen/narcotraffickers could be coordinated quite a lot better with UAV loitering and a JMU surface response (which would happen anyway). It’s not like we are dropping baskets from winches like GI Joe right now. Let’s get real on what we need and consider all of the options that fill the grid.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I love the, ‘it quickly became the subject of a financial scandal,’ line. I remember that very well and it was (and still is) my opinion that certain MLAs were simply determined to kill off the whole project. The claims they made were such complete nonsense it was sometimes hard to believe they were actually coming from supposedly responsible adults. In a way it was reminiscent of an earlier ‘scandal’ that effectively shut down the RCIPS DTF and I suspect the motivation was pretty much the same. As a senior police officer put it in 2007 once RCIPS got the helicopter the bad guys would have nowhere to hide, day or night, and I think that scared a few well connected people.

    • Anonymous says:

      Criminal activity is up in almost every category, including anecdotal. It is needle in the haystack, part-time, high cost approach to supervising an enormous grid of territory.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So many of the negative posters about the helicopter now have egg on their face.

    But remember we have posters who believe the Governor sits in the LA and we must read the stupid Miller Paw report.

    • J Hawk 64 says:

      Please, please no more back door deals like what happen with current UK helicoptet and please no more UK helicopters. Please get us a (USA ) J hawk 64.

      • Anonymous says:

        7:52 Don’t you mean an MH-60T Jayhawk? That’s what USCG have but they’re damned expensive. You can get the current version of the EC135 for about a third of the price of an MH-60T.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cheap and nasty comment, have some respect

  7. Anonymous says:

    This has to be great investment. The Cayman Islands lead the region in this regard, and what a complement to this Units efforts and capabilities to build up a regionsl Unit. Stand tall Cayman, you should be proud to lead.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lead the region? Have you ever seen the Bajan border patrol unit in action? I have. Cayman has a long way to go still and certainly does not lead the region.

      • No so says:

        I have and both have been checked,measured, and found wanting.

        • Anonymous says:

          Barbados and most places are “perhaps found wanting”. I have seen the Barbados guys in action too. Multiple times over the last 15 years as I am frequently visit for months at a time on business, staying on the South Coast. I am pretty impressed with their border patrol. They are very visibly patrolling the seas and always pulling up and checking boats. I saw a few busts from my balcony where they brought in the gunboats and jet (not helicopter) to intercept drug smugglers. It was better than watching a movie! I am sorry but what I see here is abysmal in comparison.

    • Bruce Bodden says:

      ‘Stand tall Cayman, you should be proud to lead’ -then tell me why aint no Caymanian in the helicopter unit?

      • Anonymous says:

        Bruce, go visit the Unit. You may be surprised that your statement is far from accurate.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anyone else notice that the persons who said that getting a helicopter was a bad decision have gone quiet over the years since they have seen the good it has done? They wanted a fixed wing aircraft. Wonder how you would do medical emergencies for a road accident or hurricane in that?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s interdiction and suppression success rate has been very sporadic and random while operating in our territory. Worth the multi-million dollar running costs (at the expense of contemporaneous alternatives)?

      • Anonymous says:

        And how many lives has the helicopter helped save? Why are these not factored into your calculations?

        • Anonymous says:

          1) How many ? And at what total operating cost? Waiting to hear.
          2) These are not factored in because they were not factored in when the helicopter was purchased. it was not for SAR. (Remember it couldn’t even legally fly to the sister Islands until they retrofired it.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Retrofitted with what?

            • Anonymous says:

              Retrofitted with what? That’s a good question. They were always vague on that.

              “The helicopter was first purchased
              in July 2007 for $1.8 million. It was once expected to arrive in the Cayman Islands in September 2007. More than two and a half years later, the RCIPS has its first full-time, functioning air support unit.” – Compass 7 May 2010

              “The chopper is also able to fly missions to Cayman Brac, … an option Cayman Islands Cabinet members were initially told it would not have with the aircraft.” Compass 16 June 2010

              Without the references I wouldn’t want to risk mis-stating what the retrofits were from memory. But it took a couple of years to get the helicopter fit(ish) for service.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes it is. It has saved many lives on Brac and Little Cayman when they need medical evacuation to Grand Cayman.

  9. Mike says:

    Good news, and am I to assume a second pilot will be utilised for local 24 hr normal operational capability, and, overseas duties when called upon for emergency relief etc.?

  10. Jotnar says:

    Haven’t seen the police chopper in the air in a while. Is it even operational?

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