A 500-watt Xenon search light and infrared image system is mounted on the side of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter which has night-flying capability to bolster the crime fighting efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP). (Photo by ALI VICOY)
A gang of robbers was desperately trying to get rid of police cars tailing them in a midnight high-speed car chase, but it was impossible to hide: searchlight from a helicopter hovering above was glued to them. They were arrested later, thanks to the chopper personnel who effectively guided ground forces in cornering them.
It is a scene straight out of Hollywood films and television programs, but Filipino lawmen can now do the same type of crime-busting with the acquisition of three night-flying choppers by the Philippine National Police.
"The tactical capability of these aircraft translates to greater operational advantage in our anti-criminality, public safety and law enforcement missions," said PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa during Wednesday night's blessing of the three new Robinson R44 Raven II police helicopters at the Camp Crame parade grounds in Quezon City.
"These new police choppers will see action in our election security campaign against partisan armed groups, threat groups, and election law violators," he added.
He said the helicopters would be prepositioned in areas where criminality is highly likely during the May 10 elections.
The P104.9-million Raven police helicopters, acquired through the PNP Capability Enhancement Program, are capable of flying for three hours on a standard fuel load at a cruising speed of 130 miles per hour and a range of 300 miles.
The new helicopters, one bought in the Unites States and the two others in Europe, have standard equipment like infrared imaging system and monitor which make them capable of being used at night time, and dual audio controller for police radios for contact with ground troops.
All of the four-seater choppers are equipped with a 500-watt Xenon searchlight which is useful in illuminating dark areas and in focusing any target of the police operation during nighttime. But only one of them, with tail number RP 4025, has loudspeakers which are used to play the pre-recorded voice "Huwag kikilos, pulis ito!" (Police, don't move!).
It has also rotating video camera below its head which is used in recording images of the operation. The images are seen in the large monitor located at the front seat.
"It (RP 4025) is similar to the one being used by the Los Angeles Police District ( LAPD)," said Director Leocadio
Santiago, whom the three newly-acquired choppers would be given command to, being the commander of the Special Action Force (SAF) which is designated as the custodian of PNP air assets – a total of six, including the three brand new ones.
Santiago could not hide his happiness, like a child who just obtained new toys, over the new air asset acquisition admitting that he has long dreamed of the PNP owning choppers similar to the ones he watches on American crime-busting television program.
"We only see them in American movies and television programs; we already own one now. It was just a dream before, it is a dream that came true now," Santiago told reporters.
He explained that the chopper equipped with searchlight will provide effective strategic command and control functions to coordinate ground units in police operations particularly during mobile pursuit situations.
The other two, he said, can provide tactical support for fire suppression, aerial reconnaissance, supply and airlift for ground troops in field operations, troop insertion, and medical evacuation.
Santiago said all three choppers are highly maneuverable and could easily be dispatched since they do not need much time to warm up the engine unlike ordinary helicopters.
This specification, the official said is very useful in immediate response and in the conduct of surgical strikes on ground targets such as fortified enemy encampments and bases of operations.
"We will be in constant communication with the NOC (National Operations Center), and these will immediately be flown, if needed," he said.
With the newly-acquired air assets, Santiago said they would be compelled to have more personnel trained as pilots, revealing that they would be sending at least four of his officers to the US for helicopter-flying training. The SAF has currently six pilots.
But it would take another round of long-time waiting before additional choppers woukld be added to the PNP fleet of rotary-wing aircrafts as there is no scheduled purchase of additional helicopters at least for this year.
NIGHT-FLYING CHOPPERS INFORMATION (Robinson R44 Raven II Police Helicopter)
STANDARD POLICE EQUIPMENT INSTALLED:
• FOLD DOWN MONITOR AND RADIO MOUNT
• DIGITAL RECORDER
• SEARCHLIGHT SPECTROLAB SX-5, 15-20 MILLION CANDLEPOWER
• DUAL AUDIO CONTROLLER, NAT AMS 42
• COM KING KY 196A WITH HINE MEMORY CHANNELS, CYCLIC GRIP CONTROL
• GPS AND 2ND COMM GARMIN GNC 420W
• TRANSPONDER KING KT76KWITH REMOTE MODE ALTITUDE ENCODER
• EXTENDED LANDING GEAR STRUTE
• BUBBLE WINDOWS BOTH FORWARD DOORS
• TRANSMIT AND INTERCOM FLOOR SWITCHES OBSERVER SIDE
• OBSERVER OVERHEAD LIGHT, FOOT ACTIVATED
• XENON HID LANDING LIGHTS
• 130-AMP ALTERNATOR
• GROSS WEIGHT 2,500 LBS
• EMPTY WEIGHT 1,506 LBS
• STANDARD; POLICE PACKAGE 125 LBS
• STANDARD FUEL (30.6 GALLONS) 184 LBS
• AUXILIARY FUEL (18.3 GALLONS) 110 LBS
• CRUISE SPEED: 130 MPH
• MAXIMUM RANGE: 300 MILES
• HOVERING CEILING IGE 8,950 FEET (AT 2,500 LBS)
• HOVERING CEILING OGE 7,500 FEET (AT 2,300 LBS)
• HOVERING CEILING OGE 4,500 FEET (AT 2,500 LBS)
EQUIPPED WITH FSI ULTRA INFRARED GIMBAL (10X CONTINUOUS ZOOM, inSB INFRARED SENSOR AND 18X CONTINUOUS ZOOM COLOR TV CAMERA, GYROSTABILIZED GIMBAL MONITOR, 10, 4 INCH SUNLIGHT READABLE COLOR, LCD ACTIVE MATRIX TFT)