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…Pres Ali says helicopter important step in recapitalising of Defence Force
….to enhance GDF’s air security capacity
By Svetlana Marshall
The US$13.5M Bell 412-EPI helicopter touched down at Base Camp Ayanganna on Saturday, marking an important step in the push by successive governments to recapitalise the Guyana Defence Force.
President Irfaan Ali, who witnessed the arrival of the new Bell 412 helicopter, said it will boost the capacity of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in the execution of its mandate. He said even as the Government moves to increase the Force’s assets, tremendous emphasis is being placed on building human capacity to ensure effective and efficient use of the assets. “We have spent a lot of resources in upgrading our human resources to take care of these assets and to ensure that we move towards a modern pool of capital acquisition that will improve our efficiency and enhance our national security,” the Head of State said.
He said too that the acquisition of the helicopter also signals the start of a new era of training and development. “This asset did not happen accidentally, we have been investing continuously in the training, upgrading, and development of human assets. With this acquisition, comes a new era of training and an upgraded era of development,” President Ali said Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Godfrey Bess, in his address, said the helicopter will enhance the Force’s delivery of air security services. “With this craft, the Guyana Defence Force has enhanced its air support to the Force. Operationally, we will be better able to conduct long-range aerial reconnaissance, engage in swifter troop movement and insertion into our far-flung regions, perform Casevac/Medevac, Search and Rescue missions and training,” the Chief-of-Staff explained.
He added: “In terms of national security, this is a significant tool to enhance the effectiveness of Internal Security and Joint/Inter-Agency operations. It will also allow us to have a substantial presence in assisting with the surveillance and security of Offshore operations of the oil majors and operators in our fisheries zones in the EEZ.”
Brigadier Bess, like President Ali, said the aircraft is a national asset.
“Today, I am happy to be accepting this Bell 412 EPI helicopter, on behalf of the Guyana Defence Force and also on behalf of the government and people of Guyana. The Guyana Defence Force will engage its use and maintenance in a manner that delivers the best outcomes for our people and our nation,” the Chief-of-Staff assured.
The Bell 412EPI helicopter was given the traditional water cannon salute at the commencement of the commissioning ceremony at Base Camp Ayanganna. It was brought to Guyana from the USA by a crew which consisted of Lieutenant Colonels, Courtney Byrne, Anson Weekes, and Michael Charles; Civilian Terrence Holder and Bell Ferry Pilot, Allen Niesen.
The helicopter can transport up to 14 persons, has a maximum cruise speed of 124 knots or 230 km/h, a range of 357 nautical miles, and maximum endurance of 3.8 hours. It also has a cargo hook capacity of 4,500 lbs/2,041 kg. The craft’s flight deck features modern flight tech which includes high resolution maps, terrain data and touch controls.
President Ali, in his address, announced that a team will be deployed on Monday to inspect the performance of the Coast Guard’s vessels with the aim of moving towards the acquisition of new hardware to support and bolster their performance.
“So this is the beginning of a new trend. Long before we get to the end of this year, we will see new assets acquired for our coast guard. We have to analyse the new requirements of our security sector based on our development path,” the Head of State said.
He said a modern, forward-looking security architecture is integral to the protection of the country’s growing economy and economic resources.
However, he said Guyanese must seek to understand the current constraints of the GDF, and offer their continuous support.
“I ask our fellow Guyanese, who are the greatest partners in our development and security, to continue to support the work of the Guyana Defence Force and to ensure that we all work in a collective way to keep our country safe, to protect our borders. Without a doubt, with love for the country and love for each other, there is nothing that could dent our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Subsequent to the end of the commissioning ceremony, President Ali boarded the helicopter for its inaugural flight around Georgetown.
Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips; Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh; Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn; Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Egbert Field, National Security Adviser to the President, Captain Gerry Gouveia, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch and senior officers of the GDF and Guyana Police Force were among officials present at the ceremony.