A NEW eye in the sky will help police search for criminals on the run and join high speed car chases.
Cheshire Constabulary and North Wales Police are two of six police forces in the UK which will benefit from the state-of-the-art helicopters, which cost nearly £1m each.
The aircraft will not be operational until 2010.
Police Minister Vernon Coaker announced on Monday that the replacement helicopters have been funded under the 2009/10 capital funding grant for air support, constituting £5m of Government money.
Mr Coaker MP said: "Air support units play a crucial role in helping police protect communities against crime. They help officers with a wide range of operations, from searching for offenders or missing people, to assisting other emergency services with transporting injured people.”
Police aircraft use hi-tech daylight and thermal imaging cameras to search for offenders who run off from crime scenes, assist in vehicle pursuits and look for vulnerable missing people. The helicopters are also fitted with Nitesun - a powerful searchlight to help find offenders in the dark and also to floodlight accident scenes.
The helicopters can be used to transport critically injured people to hospital at night, which air ambulances are not equipped to do. They are also fitted with Skyshout – an public address system that can pass critical messages to the public or emergency services from the air.
Funding for the project will provide enhanced equipment and satellite tracking for aircraft to allow faster deployment and enhanced safety for the operating crews.