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JDF gets $139 million to complete repair to helicopter

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
JDF helicopter

With one of its two major helicopters out of service, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) said it is being severely hampered in its ability to carry out medevac and casevac operations.

Medevac refers to the evacuation of military or other casualties to hospital in a helicopter or aeroplane, while casevac refers to the transportation of a wounded person, usually by air, from an area of military conflict to an area where medical care can be provided.

Major Basil Jarrett told The Gleaner that while the JDF has a fleet of eight aircraft, it only has one that can be used for medical and casualty evacuations. There are two helicopters that have the capacity to travel over waters and carry more than a dozen persons.

Some $139 million is earmarked in the 2015-2016 Budget for the JDF to complete refurbishing works on a damaged helicopter.

Taxpayers provided the JDF with $372 million in 2013-2014 and $150 million last year towards the overhaul of aircraft. Jarrett said the funds were not all used to service the downed helicopter, stating that a portion of the funds has been used to service the existing fleet.

"We definitely need that one to come on line," Jarrett said, adding that "if our B412 goes down, we should not be able to do any medevac and casevac".

Approximately $355 million went towards the repair of the Bell 412EP helicopter in 2013. The aircraft was in the process of "a major engine overhaul in 2005, when a structural support unit failed, damaging its tail boom and underbelly".

The JDF said the Bell 412EP is a national strategic asset which provides an important response capability for a dynamic range of contingencies, including support for disaster relief, search-and-rescue operations, casualty and medical evacuations, law enforcement, counternarcotics operations, and other essential government services.