H135 EMS

Public services

Law enforcement, search and rescue, firefighting

Public service agencies around the world count on the reliability, performance and efficiency of Airbus rotorcraft for their critical missions. On call every day, Airbus’ light, medium and medium-heavy helicopters are ready for duties that include law enforcement, firefighting, and search and rescue.

The choice of police forces worldwide

Airbus has held a nearly 30 percent share of the global law enforcement fleet over the last 10 years.


Light helicopters

All members of Airbus’ light rotorcraft family are deployed in parapublic missions, accounting for an important percentage of the worldwide fleet.

Members of the single- and twin-engine Ecureuil product line, such as the H125 and H130, are helicopters of choice for many operators. Benefits include their mission versatility, low sound levels, and lift capability to carry mission equipment, observers, light armament, and sling loads.

The twin-engine H135 and H145 are widely used by police forces and other agencies for their large, spacious cabins, wide side doors and rear clamshell doors for loading/unloading, and high-set main and tail rotors for safety during ground operations.

Medium helicopters

Dauphin twin-engine helicopters such as the AS365 N3+ and H155 are workhorses for a diverse range of duties, from border patrol and the deployment of special forces to firefighting and search and rescue missions. Their modern glass cockpits incorporate digital avionics and a 4-axis autopilot, allowing pilots to concentrate on the mission.

The H175 is a highly capable platform for search and rescue missions and parapublic applications. The large cabin is enhanced by very low vibration levels and a smooth ride – even at high speeds.

Heavy helicopters

Airbus’ Super Puma family, which includes the H225, combines excellent payload lift and range capabilities for highly demanding missions with law enforcement agencies and fire departments.

The extremely large cabin, coupled with the helicopters’ high cruise speed and smooth ride, make Super Pumas the perfect choice for missions requiring transport of tactical personnel or long-range search missions. They can carry full SWAT teams with rappelling/fast rope deployment capabilities, and can be equipped with external hoists and search and weather radar, among other mission equipment.

Down to the wire

Down to the wire

A mountain rescuer takes Airbus behind the scenes


Search and rescue

Perhaps the most iconic rotorcraft in search and rescue (SAR) is the US Coast Guard HH-65C Dauphin. With some 100 of these aircraft in service, the HH-65C is used by the Coast Guard along the country’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands.

Airbus enhancements to the Dauphin have prepared it for new missions such as armed interdiction of surface vessels involved in smuggling, as well as security and intercept air patrols over the United States capital, Washington, D.C.

The Finnish Border Guard has flown AS332 L1 Super Pumas (now known as the H215 family) for more than a quarter century for maritime search and rescue missions.

Also operating Airbus rotorcraft are the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency (SASEMAR), with an H225 for maritime SAR and pollution control missions; Switzerland’s Rega operating the H145; and the offshore oil and gas industry flying the Super Puma on rescue missions.


Japan has been flying Airbus products for firefighting missions since 1967.

The Tokyo Fire Department operates medium Dauphins and medium-heavy H225s for firefighting, emergency medical services, and search and rescue missions.

The Nagoya City Fire Bureau has flown Airbus products for over 40 years, currently operating AS365 N3+ Dauphins.

The H225s of the South Korean national 119 Rescue Service and the Chinese Guangzhou police are equipped with an Airbus firefighting system consisting of a flexible 4,000-litre (1,060 UK gal) tank, a scoop and water jettison kit, and a system of hatches underneath the fuselage to empty the tank. The tank can be pumped full with the helicopter in hover flight.

In the United States, Georgia-based Helicopter Express deploys the H125 as a contractor for the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior – performing aerial water delivery, prescribed burning, rappelling operations, and personnel delivery.

Law enforcement (focus on the United States)

The Los Angeles Police Department's inventory of Ecureuil AS350 B2 helicopters (now part of the H125 family) is a key component in one of the world’s largest municipal police aviation units. The rotorcraft is used to assist ground units, for high-speed vehicle pursuits and to provide support for undercover police operations.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deploys AS350s and the larger H215 Super Puma helicopters for missions ranging from patrol and pursuit to search, rescue and the transport of special teams across its large area of operations.

While several American law enforcement agencies use helicopters in the Ecureuil, H135 and H145 families, the US federal Customs and Border Protection agency operates both the H120 and AS350 versions (now the H125). They are flown along the country’s southwest border region with Mexico – which covers a distance of more than 2,000 miles of harsh and inhospitable terrain, where the threats of drug trafficking, alien smuggling and terrorism converge.

Law enforcement (focus on Europe)

Europe is a major market for Airbus rotorcraft in law enforcement duties. In Germany, the North Rhine-Westphalia Police Force utilises the H145H155and BK117. The launch customer for the H145 in its law enforcement version was the Baden Württemberg Police Force. In France, the French Gendarmerie operates more than 50 helicopters, including AS350s, H135s, and EC145s, while the Sécurité Civile operates 34 EC145s.

Since the late 1990s, the German Federal Police has operated H155 helicopters equipped with day-and-night vision cameras, powerful searchlights and hailer systems, among other equipment. This service’s air wing helicopter fleet also includes H135s, which have logged close to 1,000,000 flight hours for police work –representing 20% of the H135 family total flight hours – disaster control, and air rescue operations; and the AS332 L1 Super Puma for long-haul operations.

Other European law enforcement operators are the French Gendarmerie, which has 60 years of experience operating Airbus helicopters; the London Metropolitan Police, with EC145s; and the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Air Support Unit, flying the H135 and EC145.

Law enforcement (focus on Africa)

Airbus’ AS350 B3 (an early version of the H125) has become the reference helicopter for airborne police units in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is flown in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. In Namibia, the Police Force’s Air Wing operates both the AS350 B3 and EC145.

Airbus rotorcraft are on the front lines of a battle that is specific to Africa: the poaching of rhinoceros and elephants often carried out by groups armed with automatic or military-type weapons. In taking the fight airborne to identify and ban poaching, the South African National Parks Service utilises AS350s, while the South African Police operates H125s.

The H145 is also present in the Middle East with helicopters recently ordered by Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

The crew of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s air unit in an H145 helicopter. Airbus has more than 800 helicopters in service in law enforcement with the H125, H135 and H145, contributing to Airbus’ nearly 60 percent share of the global law enforcement fleet over the last 10 years.

Aerial law enforcers

In service of their communities

Infographics and documents


Frank Wilhelmsen and Bård Rannestad    

Public service mission news

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A history of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services

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