Since 1971, The Saint Louis County Police Department has provided helicopter patrol, search and rescue capabilities to the citizens of the Greater Saint Louis Metropolitan Area. The Saint Louis County Police Department has supplied the citizens it serves and the officers responsible to ensure the safety of these citizens with an unprecedented tool, aerial law enforcement.
In 1985, the department made the responsible decision to make the transition from Bell 47 helicopters to MD500E's. The increase in speed, power, equipment and mission capability provided a greater benefit to the region. The department has since acquired three additional Hughes OH-6A aircraft through the Department of Defense re-utilization program. This program made it possible for the air support unit to continue to expand its capabilities and reduce its operating expenditures. The Hughes helicopters were manufactured in 1968 and used during the Vietnam conflict. All current OH-6A's saw combat during the conflict, and one of our helicopters was shot down in Cambodia. Because of their age and difficulty in locating parts to maintain them to the standards of the Federal Aviation Administration, we are seeking to replace them with updated equipment.
In 1996, The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department acquired a military surplus OH-58 helicopter. It began operations with this single helicopter and one pilot. Because of budget constraints, the OH-58 was returned to the Department of Defense re-utilization program.
In 1999, the St. Louis County Police Department, the Monarch Fire District and the Metro-West Fire Department joined efforts and developed the Special Operations Aviation Rescue Team (SOAR). At no extra cost to area citizens, this team has been developed to respond quickly to swift-water, confined-area and high-rise rescue missions. SOAR has the ability to rescue individuals who are stranded on burning buildings, adrift in the many waterways surrounding our area, injured in locations inaccessible to vehicles and victims of terrorist attack.