On Tuesday of this week the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors gave the go ahead for the Sheriff's Department to pursue five surplus UH-1H Huey helicopters from the Department of Defense. The SBSD will make the request through the State of California ,Governors Office of Emergency Services who administers the program on the state level.
According to Lt. Dave Gregory of the Sheriff's Aviation Division, the helicopters will be refurbished and used for a variety of missions, to include transporting narcotic officers, SWAT officers, evidence, or even potential casualties.
The Sheriff's office will receive the helicopters at no cost to the tax payers of San Bernardino County. This is a huge benefit as each helicopter has an estimated value of between $500,000 and 1 million dollars.
Giving surplus military helicopters to local law enforcement agencies is nothing new however. Many smaller sheriff's departments and police agencies started their aviation units strictly with military surplus aircraft, (operated under public use rules.)
The DOD is releasing approximately 100 aircraft to various law enforcement agencies this year, and are eager to get rid of them according to Lt. Gregory. The governors office has called several times to ensure that they are still interested in accepting the helicopters.
The San Bernardino Sheriff's Aviation Division already operate 2 Huey helicopters which are about 40 years old. The 5 helicopters they stand ready to receive are about 10 years newer than the two they are currently operating. It is unlikely that all 5 helicopters will be put into operation. It is much more probable that 2 to 3 will be put into operation and the others used for spare parts. This approach is fairly common for agencies who receive surplus aircraft.
About San Bernardino Sheriff's Aviation Division: San Bernardino has the honor of being the largest single county in the United States of America, encompassing approximately 20,000 square miles. It is about 4-5 times larger than Los Angeles County, and stretches all the way to the Arizona Border. The highest peak in the county is San Gorgonio at 11,500 ft.
To provide effective law enforcement services to such a large county requires a number of aviation assets. In addition to the two Huey Helicopter's mentioned above, San Bernardino Sheriff's aviation division operates the following helicopters/aircraft;
6 ASTAR B-3 Eurocopters
1- MD 500E Helicopter
1- Bell 212 Helicopter
1- Sikorsky H-3
2- Fixed wing aircraft
The Aviation Division is made up of a Captain, Lieutenant, 2- Sergeants, 1- Corporal, 9- Deputy Pilots, and 7- Deputy Flight Tactical Officers.
In addition to providing law enforcement services, SBSD is the primary Search and Rescue agency in the county. The unit is based at the Rialto Ca., airport.