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Tender For New SAPS Helicopter Issued by Armscor - AW169M Seems to Fit the Bill

Armscor, the acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defence, has released a tender to supply a "troop-carrying helicopter" for the South African Police Service (SAPS). The SAPS is looking to enhance its aerial capabilities through this acquisition. The helicopter must be supplied by either the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or an OEM-authorised supplier.



According to the Armscor tender, the helicopter must be a twin turbine design with 850 horsepower per engine, and certified for single-pilot visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) operations by day and night. It should weigh between 3,180 to 5,670 kilograms and be able to transport one pilot and at least eight passengers for three hours with a 20-minute reserve.


The helicopter's performance specifications mandate a maximum speed of 130 knots (240 km/h) and a fast cruise of at least 120 knots. The chopper should also be capable of covering a maximum range of at least 350 nautical miles and carrying a minimum useful load of 2,200 lb. To ensure safe operation in dusty and corrosive environments, the helicopter must be equipped with sand or barrier filters. Additionally, the service ceiling should exceed 12,500 feet. One ideal candidate that fits and in some cases exceeds the required specifications is the Leonardo AW169M LUH helicopter.



The requirements for the helicopter tender (ECAC/2023/117) include a rotor brake, oil and gearbox chip detectors, jettisonable front doors, removable or foldable cabin seats, night vision goggle-compatible cockpit instrumentation, skid landing gear, provision for a searchlight, cargo sling hook, fast roping equipment, and hoist attachment.



The South African Police Service (SAPS) Air Wing has acquired new helicopters through the state-owned defence materiel agency, Armscor. According to a report by Business Day, seven helicopters are being procured for a total of R400 million. Three Airbus Helicopters H125 light utility rotorcraft have already been delivered to South Africa. The first helicopter (ZT-RFP) was received by the SAPS in December 2012, and two more (ZT-RFT and ZT-RFU) were accepted on 1 September 2023.



During the handover, SAPS National Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola stated that the aircraft would offer essential air support to police officers working on the ground. Their primary function would be to track and locate suspects during high-risk incidents such as cash-in-transit (CIT) heists, armed robberies, hijackings, and other serious and violent crimes.



In 2017, Armscor was tasked with disposing of 13 BO 105 helicopters that belonged to the Air Wing and were grounded. Last year, a private buyer acquired seven of them as part of an Armscor tender. Before this, Armscor facilitated the purchase of six R44 helicopters for the SAPS, which were delivered between 2008 and onwards.



The South African Police Service (SAPS) Air Wing currently operates 16 AS350 helicopters, which are multi-mission rotary wing aircraft manufactured by Airbus. These helicopters are known for their manoeuvrability, excellent visibility and low in-cabin vibration levels. The aircraft has a flat floor that can be easily reconfigured for various missions, including aerial work, firefighting, law enforcement, rescue, air ambulance, passenger transport, and more.



In addition to the AS350, the SAPS Air Wing fleet includes six R-44 Raven IIs, two MD500s, and a BK 117. The fixed-wing aircraft include eight PC-6 Porters, a PC-12, a King Air C90, and a Citation Sovereign jet. Half of the fleet is stationed in Gauteng, while the rest are deployed throughout the country.



The SAPS aircraft are used for policing operations, such as crime prevention, vehicle tracking and pursuit, marijuana plantation spraying, crowd control, VIP transport, and search and rescue operations. Some of these aircraft are equipped with hoists, cameras, searchlights and slings. It's worth noting that one of the PC-6 Porters was sadly destroyed in a crash at Rand Airport in August 2022.

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