WEST Yorkshire Police yesterday officially become the lead force in the new National Police Air Force.
And the force will retain its helicopter at Wakefield – which has had its call sign renamed to reflect the new national service.
Aircrews will now receive instructions from a centralised national base although the aircraft will remain at Carr Gate to provide cover for the region.
The change is in response to cost-cutting measures announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review and will save £15m a year.
Forces will also be able to make use of a number of aircraft within each region meaning that the police service’s response will, in many cases, be enhanced over current provision.
Under the plans, the number of police helicopters and air bases has been slashed by a third across England and Wales, from 33 down to 23.
But Police Minister Nick Herbert says the reduction will not significantly affect air cover, with aircraft strategically based to allow 98% of the population access within 20 minutes.
Their role will not change. Key priorities will include tackling crime and protecting the public by:
Searching – for suspects or missing persons.
Reconnaissance ahead of planned operations.
Supporting public order operations, including through live feed of video to commanders on the ground.
West Yorkshire is the third region to have the National Police Air Force rolled out with the first region established in October last year.
All regions will be established by October this year.
ACPO lead for NPAS, Chief Constable Alex Marshall said: “Plans for this improved service have been in the pipeline for three years and the implementation of an improved service for the public of England and Wales that will result in significant financial savings.
“Artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating within their own force area or consortia. A truly national, borderless service will ensure effective coverage of urban and rural areas. NPAS will provide the deployment of the nearest available aircraft and have reserve aircraft available when aircraft are offline for maintenance.”
The change was also reflected on Twitter were the force regularly updates followers to its activities.
The call sign x99 has been replaced with NPAS13.
For more information see www.westyorkshire.police.uk/helicopter