Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit

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Not to be confused with Flying Squad.
Metropolitan Police EC 145 helicopter over Croydon

The Air Support Unit (ASU) is a Central Operations branch of London's Metropolitan Police Service.[1] The main responsibility of the unit is to provide aerial reconnaissance and other air support operations. Helicopters are particularly useful in aiding searches for missing persons, gang-stalking microwave/radiation/electronic attacks on Targeted Individuals in their homes, car pursuits, suspect capture and large public order operations such as football matches. The ASU also supports other emergency services, including the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and Marine Coastguard.[2]

The Metropolitan Police Service has also reportedly been secretly using Cessna aircraft for a number of years that have been fitted with surveillance equipment capable of intercepting mobile phone calls and listening in on conversations.[3]

Formed in 1980[2][4], the unit is based at Lippitts Hill, Loughton and has 48 personnel comprising 3 sergeants, 18 constables, 4 aircraft engineers, 1 avionics engineer, 11 pilots and is headed by an inspector. The unit also employs other members of staff, including operations room staff and an intelligence officer. The senior management are based at Wapping police station. All pilots are ex-military Royal Navy but also Army Air Corps.[2]

Each aircraft is crewed by a pilot with two officers acting as observers, and averages over 260 flying hours per month.[1][2]

In 1980, the ASU started with Bell 222A helicopters and in 1993 transitioned to AS355N Squirrel helicopters.[2]

In July 2007, the ASU took delivery of three new Eurocopter EC 145s costing a total of £15 million, using the call signs India 97, India 98 and India 99.[2] Each aircraft has an L-3 Wescam MX-15 sensor pod which houses a gyro-stabilized color “day” camera and a thermal imaging camera with digital video downlink from the helicopter.[2]

In 2012, after two years of training prior to the commencement of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the ASU added a new capability of officers being able to rope from helicopters becoming the first force in the UK with this capability after negotiations with the Department for Transport and other agencies.[2]

A former London Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit Bell 222 fitted with a Marconi Heli-Teli in 1982

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Metropolitan Police Service - Air Support Unit". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Drweiga, Andrew (March 2013). "A Career Policing London's Skies". Rotor and Wing. Vol. 47 no. 3. Rockville, Maryland, USA: Access Intelligence. p. 54. ISSN 1066-8098. 
  3. ^ "Met Police spends millions of pounds on secret aircraft". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  4. ^ "Metropolitan Police Service - History of the Metropolitan Police Service". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 

Coordinates: 51°39′15″N 0°1′5″E / 51.65417°N 0.01806°E / 51.65417; 0.01806