The Phoenix Police Department's Air Support Unit has added a fourth AS350B3 "AStar" helicopter from American Eurocopter, the company announced.

Members of the department's airborne law enforcement unit picked up the helicopter from the American Eurocopter Delivery Center in Grand Prairie, Texas, in late October.

"We knew it was imperative to meet the performance needs of our expanded mission profile, as well as the fiscal needs of our department," said Dave Harvey, the department's air support commander. "The AS350 provides us with the performance we need as well as better manageability and lower operating costs."

The AS350 offers a variety of mission-equipment options and appeals to law enforcement agencies because of the safety of its multiple-redundancy system design, according to the company.

The Phoenix PD's Air Support Unit, which was established in 1973, provides air support to ground patrol units. The unit operates 14 hours a day, seven days a week and covers more than 500 square miles. The unit's scope has been expanded to include search and rescue missions as well as firefighting responsibilities.

"This purchase allowed us to utilize capital improvement funds to expand the availability of our fleet," Harvey said.

The unit now manages a fleet of four planes and eight helicopters. It also includes an Agusta (now AgustaWestland) A109 twin-engine and A119 Koala single-engine copters for patrol and, less frequently, search-and-rescue missions, according to Lt. Tracey Miller of the unit.

"The aircraft will primarily be used for patrol flight missions," Miller tells POLICE. "The only time it would be used for a search-and-rescue mission would be to locate a stranded individual. It is not equipped for rescuing."

For patrol mission, the unit assists ground units by providing location-based intelligence, according to Miller.

"We are used to assist in vehicle and foot pursuits, setting up perimeters [and] being overhead on barricade situations … pretty much any time ground units think a suspect will flee or has already," Miller says. "We are utilized for locating missing juveniles, looking for vehicles used in the commission of a crime and just being overhead for the purpose of deterring a crime before it happens."

The AS350 helicopters are used by 75 U.S. agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to Larry Roberts, American Eurocopter's vice president of sales, marketing and customer support.

"We are extremely gratified that the Phoenix police air support unit has selected yet another AS350B3 work horse to add to their fleet of now four AStars," Roberts said. "The AS350 family continues to provide an extremely reliable, durable and cost effective solution that also encompasses an unrivaled cockpit and platform for today's expanding airborne law enforcement needs."