02 August 2023

Strong collaboration between Leonardo and Royal Oman Police, dating back to the early 2000s, has led to an important operational milestone with the AW139, explains Colonel Pilot Bader Al Siyabi of the Directorate General of Police Aviation. 

On 14 June, Leonardo and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) celebrated the achievement of 20,000 flight hours performed by the ROP’s AW139 fleet. The landmark signifies the continued success of the AW139 since its certification 20 years ago, with more than 1,100 units delivered to date and 3.7 million flight hours logged by the global fleet.

This significant achievement is a tangible example of the strong partnership between Leonardo and the Royal Oman Police – a relationship that can be traced back to the early 2000s. The ROP was one of the first operators in the world to believe in the AW139’s advanced capabilities, resulting in the first contract signature in 2004. Leonardo successfully introduced this state-of-the-art aircraft in a very demanding ‘hot and high’ environment, providing elevated levels of availability and safety and making the Royal Oman Police’s operations a true benchmark.

Here, Colonel Pilot Bader Al Siyabi of the Directorate General of Police Aviation discusses the work of the Royal Oman Police, the main law and order agency for the Sultanate of Oman, and the long in-service history of the ROP’s fleet of Leonardo helicopters. The fleet includes both AW139 and AW109 Power types, which are committed to serve the national community by performing a wide range of extremely challenging missions.

Award ceremony for reaching 20,000 flight hours with the AW139 fleet

The Royal Oman Police, established in 1970 by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, is based on the concept of a modern and efficient police service. How has the ROP achieved these objectives?

There are many factors that contribute to the ROP’s reputation. First of all, the ROP places a strong emphasis on professionalism and training of its personnel. Officers undergo rigorous training programmes to develop their skills and knowledge in various areas of law enforcement, such as crime prevention, traffic management, investigation techniques, and community policing.

The ROP is also investing in technological advancements to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness, using advanced equipment, communication systems and information technology infrastructure to support its operations. This includes systems for crime analysis, digital forensics, traffic management, and online services that are convenient for the public.

The ROP is committed to community policing, which involves building strong relationships and partnerships with the community through an approach of mutual cooperation between the police and the public. It helps foster trust, enhance public safety, and address the root causes of crime.

The ROP relies on an effective organisational structure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. It operates through various specialised departments, such as the General Directorate of Traffic, Criminal Investigation Department, Coast Guard, and Public Security, among others. This division of tasks enables efficient coordination and a targeted approach to law enforcement.

I would also underline the importance of international cooperation. The ROP actively collaborates internationally, exchanging information with law enforcement agencies worldwide. It participates in joint training programmes, conducts cross-border operations, and shares intelligence to combat transnational crimes effectively. This co-operation enhances the ROP's capabilities and helps it to stay updated with the latest global law enforcement practices.

And finally, the ROP places a strong emphasis on providing public service to the community. It aims to be accessible and responsive to the needs of the public. The ROP has established various centres and online platforms to better engage with the public, handle complaints, issue permits, and provide information, thereby enhancing its efficiency in delivering services.

These factors contribute to the Royal Oman Police's reputation as a modern and efficient law enforcement agency in Oman. It has evolved over the years to adapt to changing societal needs and global law enforcement standards, ensuring the safety and security of the Sultanate.

When was the ROP’s Directorate General of Police Aviation established? When did the first Leonardo helicopters enter into service?

On 9 September 1974, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Supreme Commander of the Police, issued a royal decree to establish the Police Aviation Directorate, initially named the Police Aviation Wing, to be attached to the private royal airport. After one year, the number of aircraft in the police fleet rose to seven.

By 2000, it was clear that the ROP helicopter fleet was ageing. The ROP Headquarters, led by His Excellency the Inspector General of Police and Customs, directed the Police Aviation Directorate to evaluate the options and choose the best helicopters to fulfil ROP duties efficiently. Leonardo was selected and two types of helicopters were chosen: the AW109 Power and the AW139. In 2005, the ROP received the first AW109 Power and in 2007, the first AW139 was received.

AW139 of the Royal Oman Police engaged in a SAR (Search & Rescue) operation

This year, the ROP celebrates 20,000 flight hours with its AW139 fleet, which includes 11 units. What missions do these helicopters perform?

The AW139 provides a versatile platform that can adapt to different situations and requirements, enhancing the ROP's operational capabilities and overall effectiveness, and performing various missions to support law enforcement and public safety in Oman.

Some of the missions typically carried out by the AW139 helicopters include aerial surveillance, where the helicopters assist in detecting criminal activities, illegal border crossings, and suspicious movements of people and Search and Rescue (SAR), where the AW139 plays a crucial role in SAR operations, particularly in the challenging terrain of Oman. The helicopters are equipped with advanced SAR systems and can be deployed to locate missing people, assist in medical evacuations, and provide support during cyclones and other adverse weather events.

The AW139 is also deployed in the Air Ambulance role, providing Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) to transport patients and injured people, whether from remote villages and locations, or between hospitals.

Law enforcement is a central mission and the AW139 helicopters support law enforcement efforts by providing air support during police operations. They can assist in tracking and apprehending suspects, conducting aerial reconnaissance, and can support troop deployment for the special task unit.

The AW139 fleet can be called on to perform firefighting duties, where the helicopters are used for aerial firefighting to support the Public Authority for Civil Defence in places that are difficult for land-based firefighting vehicles to reach.

Finally, the AW139 is deployed for VIP Transport, providing a secure and efficient mode of transportation for high-ranking officials, including members of the royal family or government authorities.

The types of missions that the ROP carries out are extremely demanding. How does the AW139 meet the challenging operational requirements?

There are many factors that ensure that the AW139 fleet meets the demanding operational requirements of the ROP, starting with Leonardo’s support, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the operational readiness, safety, and efficiency of our AW139 helicopters.

The AW139 is also a versatile helicopter that can be configured for multiple missions. It has excellent performance, cruise speed, long endurance, and a significant range. The AW139 is equipped with advanced safety features. It has a fully integrated digital avionics system, including collision avoidance systems, enhanced ground proximity warning systems, and automated flight control systems. These features enhance situational awareness and help to mitigate potential risks. It offers a spacious cabin with ample capacity for mission-specific payloads. The AW139 exhibits excellent manoeuvring capabilities, making it suitable for operations in confined spaces or difficult terrains.

Oman has some extremely mountainous terrain. Considering particular missions, such as firefighting in areas that are inaccessible to traditional firefighting equipment, do ROP pilots complete specific training?

Yes, pilots involved in firefighting activities in areas with inaccessible terrain, such as Oman's mountainous regions, typically undergo specific training to prepare them for such challenging missions. These training programmes focus on developing the necessary skills and knowledge required to operate safely and effectively in mountainous and rugged environments. Pilots receive specialised training in mountain-flying techniques, including training on ‘hot and high’ helicopter operations. They also receive training on how fires behave.

What is next for the Directorate General of Police Aviation? Are there any new initiatives in progress to further strengthen its capabilities?

Training and skill development are essential for maintaining operational excellence. The Directorate General of Police Aviation will focus on providing specialised training programmes for pilots, crew members, and technical personnel. This can include advanced flight training, dedicated mission training, simulation exercises, and professional development to enhance people’s skills and expertise. The Directorate General of Police Aviation will also seek to enhance collaboration and partnerships with other agencies and organisations involved in public safety and emergency response.