The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department unveiled its two newest aerial assets to the public in a ceremony on November 20th, 2023, at the ASTREA base in El Cajon, showcasing the agency’s new Bell 412 EPX and Bell 407 GXI as the newest additions to the fleet.
Sheriff Kelly A. Martinez unveiled two new helicopters during a news conference on Monday, November 20, at the Aerial Support to Law Enforcement Agencies (ASTREA) Base at Gillespie Field in San Diego.
Since 1971, the ASTREA unit has provided aerial support to the Sheriff’s Department and partner agencies across the county. It averages nearly 6,000 missions annually, including patrol support and regional fire and rescue calls.
The new helicopters are a regional asset, according to the county, and will significantly enhance the agency’s ability to respond to emergencies to minimize the impact on lives and property for everyone in the county.
The Bell 412EPX is designed to operate in challenging environments and weather conditions typically encountered during firefighting missions and works in conjunction with CAL FIRE with seven firefighters on board the 412 during fire calls. This unified front is crucial in stopping fires before they become catastrophic according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
The agency’s newest patrol helicopter also unveiled on November 20th is the Bell 407GXi. The patrol helicopter is dedicated to law enforcement operations for both day and night operations. The Bell 407 GXi is fitted with a cutting-edge flight deck with precision navigation allowing pilots to accurately track and respond to incidents. The 407GXi has a powerful engine for speed in responding to emergencies and patrol coverage crucial for law enforcement missions. The helicopter can also be equipped with a Bambi Bucket to assist with water drops during peak firefighting operations.
The helicopters cost $21 million using the department’s budget and Proposition 172 funds. “These helicopters empower our first responders to meet the demands of their critical roles. They represent our commitment to your safety and preparedness to handle whatever challenges may come our way. It is our promise to be there when you need us the most.” said an agency spokesperson.