Taiwan's coastguard may form an aerial patrol squadron with a fleet of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).

The agency requires the aircraft to improve its offshore patrol capability, which is now limited to a fleet of two wet-leased helicopters.

Industry sources say the coastguard has begun evaluating twin-engined medium to heavy helicopters and twin-engined propeller aircraft with enough range to reach Taiwan's outer islands. But budget constraints and a restructuring of the agency under Taiwan's ministry of the interior (MOI) have so far slowed efforts to acquire a dedicated coastguard fleet.

MOI has been tasked with merging the aviation arms of the coastguard, national firefighting administration (NFA) and police. MOI also oversees a separate government aviation team in charge of providing VIP transport for government officials and aerial photography.

The police operate Eurocopter AS365 Dauphins and the NFA flies Bell UH-1H Hueys and Boeing CH-47 Chinooks. VIP flights are provided with Sikorsky S-76s and Raytheon Beechcraft 1900s. A B-N Group BN-2 Islander is used for aerial photography and agricultural missions.

A combined coastguard-NFA acquisition is considered unlikely given their different missions. But the MOI is looking at transferring some S-76s to NFA and some Dauphins to the coastguard.

NFA requires six medium and six heavy helicopters. Industry sources believe this acquisition will go forward first because $160 million in funds has already been allocated.

The coastguard wants 12 helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft and is evaluating proposals for reconnaissance UAVs to patrol areas off limits to military aircraft.

Source: Flight International