The Air Component of the Cypriot National Guard, like that of the Cyprus Police Force, is mainly composed of all-purpose and combat helicopters. Until now, efforts to strengthen Cyprus with aircrafts have not been successful. Some efforts in the distant past to reinforce Cyprus with U.S. aircrafts of the Hellenic Air Force failed, because of the reactions both from abroad and at home.
The presence of the Air Force in Cyprus starts in December 1963 when the Air Command is established. In 1964 the Air Command had under its control two Airport Protection Squadrons, the 3rd Early Warning Station Squadron and a fleet of 6 aircrafts and 2 helicopters which was jointly operated with the Police. In 1967 the 4th Early Warning Station Squadron was created. In 1968, the the Air Command and the Police separate their functions and equipment. The Air Command took under its control only two aircrafts, a C-45 and a PIPER. In 1995 the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre f is established providing Search and Rescue services within the Nicosia FIR.
The most important development in the last two years in the aviation of Cyprus, is the supply of SAR helicopters type AW139. A total of three helicopters were received in the first half of 2011. It is expected that their operational capability will be announced in August 2011. The 460 Research & Rescue Squadron of the National Guard is equipped with these three new helicopters. The squadron was recently established to bring the Cypriot National Guard in a new era of operational capabilities and the transition to a new generation of technology.
During 2010, the Cyprus Police also received two AW139 helicopters, in support of two existing Bell 412EP/SP. Both Bell 412EP/SP, which belong to the Air Operations Unit of the Police are aged 21 and 14 years respectively.
The two twin-engine, medium-sized helicopters that have strengthened since last year the police fleet, can carry up to 17 people, including the two-men crew. They are equipped with modern audiovisual systems, which provide, among other things, the capability of night operations. Their speed reaches167 knots per hour and their range is 517 nautical miles, a distance that exceeds the Nicosia FIR, allowing to operate even to the farthest point and then return to their base without the need for refueling. These new helicopters can transfer up to 15 shipwrecked or three patients on stretchers. Each helicopter has an automatic system that launches two rescue rafts, of 17 people capacity each. The total value of these two helicopters amounts to 31,588.233 Euros and the purchase was achieved with the aid of the EU’s external borders fund, which provided the amount of 8,318.879 Euros, representing 26.33% of its annual programs.
The acquisition of AW193 contributes to the overall operational upgrade of the Rescue Coordination Centre within the Nicosia FIR.
This movement is the third overall effort since 1985 to strengthen the air force in Cyprus. Since then Cyprus bought 4 Gazelle, 3 Bell 206, 2 Mi-2 and 2 PC-9. A PC-9 crashed in September 2005.
The new AW139 of the Police are based at Larnaca, where the relevant infrastructure for their support has already been created. 4 Gazelle and 1-2 Bell 206 helicopters (a Bell 206 crashed in 2002) were originally based in Lakatamia but they were redeployed to Paphos, under pressure from local residents to return land that had previously been expropriated by the Republic. The landowners in the area of airbase expect that in the future the whole base will be moved away from the area in order to allow for the proper development of the whole region.
With the acquisition of four Gazelle in the late 80s, Cyprus acquired for the first time an air patrol and armed reconnaissance capability. These helicopters, following a ministerial decision, were redeployed to Paphos.
In 2001 Russia delivered a total of 12 combat helicopters type Mil-Mi-35P. In 2006 a Mil-Mi-35P helicopter crashed. It is reported that a number of these helicopters returned to Russia, because of the existence of technical issues. The number of these helicopters that are currently operational remains unknown. Based on the data of an international strategic institute, not all them are in operational condition.
These helicopters are in Paphos (55th Combat Group), where there is also an aircraft type BN-2B1 Maritime Defender, a military version of the BN-2T Turbo Islander as well as two PC-9. The BN-2B1 is aged 21 years and is not operational since 2006. The 55th Combat Group which is based at the “Andreas Papandreou” airbase, consists of the 450 Helicopter Squadron, the 420 Airport Protection Squadron and the Operations Support Squadron.
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