UK – National Police Air Service is launched

UK – National Police Air Service is launched

3-Oct-2012 Source: ACPO

The new National Police Air Service (NPAS) was launched on Monday October 1, 2012

The new service will provide more efficient and accessible air support to the police service throughout England and Wales that offers better value for money.

Responding to the findings of a comprehensive review commissioned in 2009, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and individual Police Authorities approved the central recommendation to replace the previous air support system with a national service, regionally coordinated for local delivery.

An ACPO led project team has been supported by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Home Office to develop and deliver an implementation plan for the national service.

In difficult financial times, NPAS illustrates how the police service is pro-actively moving towards a national, co-ordinated way of working. The new service is delivered under the first National Collaboration Agreement between policing bodies in England and Wales. Through collaborate working this enables a service to provide capability from the air that maximises the delivery of frontline public services, but with a lower cost than services procured and managed on a local basis.

West Yorkshire Police Authority has agreed for West Yorkshire Police to be the Lead Force for NPAS and this ensures that NPAS is led and owned by the police service and delivers the operational benefits and financial savings that have been presented to individual police bodies.

NPAS will provide a national, borderless service making use of the nearest aircraft meaning that the police service’s response will, in many cases, be enhanced over current provision.

It will provide an air service to 98% of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes.

There will be 23 strategic locations, with 25 aircraft that provide the operational capability to deliver an enhanced service to the public with an aircraft being available 24 hours a day. Reserve aircraft (three) will also be provided when aircraft are offline for scheduled maintenance to minimise reduction in service.

The service will deliver a more cost effective service balancing the need to save money against the need to ensure the police service has a quickly deployable asset that can be used to tackle crime and protect the public. It is anticipated that NPAS will save up to £15 million a year compared to previous arrangements for police air support when all forces join NPAS.

Longer term, further savings are expected to be achievable through improved operational and organisational efficiencies and moving to an optimised fleet (reducing maintenance and training costs).

NPAS will be implemented in a regional phased approach from October 2012- January 2015.*

ACPO lead for NPAS, Chief Constable Alex Marshall said, “Plans for this improved service have been in the pipeline for three years and I’m delighted that today will mark the first phase of implementation of an improved service for the public of England and Wales that will result in significant financial savings.

“Artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating within their own force area or consortia. A truly national, borderless service will ensure effective coverage of urban and rural areas. NPAS will provide the deployment of the nearest available aircraft and have reserve aircraft available when aircraft are offline for maintenance.

“I am grateful for the collective hard work undertaken by the ACPO and NPIA project team in the development of the service. In addition the work and cooperation of West Yorkshire Police to deliver the implementation plan and the support shown by the Government has been much appreciated. ”

Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green said:

“I am very pleased to welcome the launch of the National Police Air Service. It will create the first national, borderless air service for the police, vastly improving current provisions. This is a great example of police working together to improve services for the public while saving money.

“This new police led, government-supported scheme will keep 98 per cent of people in England and Wales 20 minutes or less from police air support and will save up to £15 million a year.

“NPAS shows police forces working together can drive down costs. When Police and Crime Commissioners are elected in November their public mandate will provide a sharp incentive to drive forward even greater efficiencies in policing costs, while still improving public services.”

Cllr Brian Greenslade, The Association of Police Authorities (APA) lead on Air Support said,

“The National Police Air Service has the potential to deliver better public protection at lower cost.

“From catching criminals to ensuring the safety of crowds, helicopters and other means of air support are essential tools in the fight against crime, but they are costly and in some areas used infrequently.

“This programme should ensure that forces retain the right capability to call on air support to protect the public whilst sharing its considerable costs.

“Police authorities have been key partners in getting this programme off the ground – it will be for elected Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure that it delivers the considerable benefits it has promised the public.”


The new service is delivered under the first National Collaboration Agreement made under Section 22 of the Police Act 1996 (as amended) between the policing bodies and forces of England and Wales.

Under NPAS it is proposed that there will be twenty three air support bases at strategic locations that provide the operational capability to deliver an enhanced service.

SEQUENCING DATES and locations

October 2012 South East**

Which will cover the following force areas:

Thames Valley

The bases will be at:

Boreham Airport- Essex
Wattisham/Honington- Suffolk
Redhill- Surrey
Benson- Oxfordshire

January 2013 North West
Which will cover the following force areas:

North Wales

The bases will be at:

Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, North Wales
Hawarden- Cheshire
Barton Moss- Greater Manchester
Warton- Lancashire

April 2013 North East

Which will cover the following force areas:

West Yorkshire
North Yorkshire
South Yorkshire

The bases will be at:

Carr Gate- Wakefield
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Humberside Airport, Humberside
Newcastle Airport, Newcastle
Durham Tees Valley Airport, Teeside

July 2013 South West

Which will cover the following force areas:

Devon & Cornwall
Avon & Somerset
Dyfed Powys
South Wales

The bases will be at:

Bournemouth Airport, Bournemouth
Exeter Airport, Exeter
Filton, South Gloucestershire
Pembrey, Dyfed-Powys
St Athan, Glamorgan, South Wales

October 2013 Central
Which will cover the following force areas:

West Mercia
West Midland

The bases will be at:

Halfpenny Green, Wolverhampton
Birmingham Airport, Birmingham
Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire
Ripley, Derbyshire

January 2014 ** London
Which will cover the following force areas:

City of London

The base will be at:

Lippit’s Hill, Essex

** MPS will provide operational assistance to NPAS from October 2012.


January 2015 South West Continued


Reserves: Additional Three Reserve Aircraft, two will be available from October 2012. The date for the other reserve aircraft is to be confirmed.

Previously air support in England and Wales was primarily delivered locally and independently – there were 30 Police Air Support Units (ASU), operating 33 aircraft.

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