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Panama homeland security signs for six AW139s

A deal for six AgustaWestland AW139 medium-twin helicopters is Panama's latest bid to boost the capability of its homeland security operation.

The contract for six AW139s, along with pilot and maintenance training, is part of a €130 million ($168 million) security package awarded to AgustaWestland parent Finmeccanica, which includes a maritime surveillance coastal network.

According to the Finmeccanica company, four helicopters will be configured to perform "a wide range of national and public security roles". One will be used for utility missions and the sixth for transporting senior government officials and other VIPs. Deliveries are to begin in one year's time.

The AW139s will join the fixed and rotary-wing fleet of Panama's Senan security agency established in late 2008. In March Panama announced the procurement of the first three of an intended 12 Bell 412 helicopters, to augment an existing fleet of five Bell 212/UH-1Ns, which are undergoing service life extension work by Canadian Helitech.

Pilots and maintenance staff are being trained in anticipation of delivery of two Cessna 208B Grand Caravans equipped for maritime surveillance, medical evacuation and utility missions. Senan recently returned three EADS Casa C-212-300s to service following a workshop visit to EADS, and has expressed interest in procuring two Airbus Military C-235s for maritime surveillance.

Also in service with Senan or under repair are rotorcraft types including the Bell 407, Bell 205/UH-1H, Eurocopter EC145 and MD 500.

Fixed-wing aircraft in the fleet include an Embraer Legacy 600, an Enaer T-35D Pillan trainer/reconnaissance aircraft, a Gulfstream II for VIP transport and a Piper Seneca.