FOUR BELL UH-1ST helicopters donated by the US Government have been delivered to Costa Rica for operation by the country’s Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea (SVA – Air Surveillance Service), part of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (MSP). All four arrived at San José/Juan Santamaria International Airport on March 8 on board US Air Force/436th Airlift Wing C-17A Globemaster III 07-7169. Two of them have serials MSP-023 and MSP-025, but the other two are as yet unconfirmed. The UH-1STs, modified variants of the UH-1N Twin Huey, will now be re-assembled and test flown before initially being used for training of SVA aircrew.
The US Embassy in Costa Rica had announced an agreement for the donation of these helicopters on April 26, 2018. They have been provided through the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. They will be used by the SVA in a variety of roles, including providing air support for maritime and air interdiction, emergency medical evacuation and response to natural disasters, together with assistance to the police in the fight against illicit drugs and related crimes. Delivery of these helicopters means that the SVA can cover more territory and respond more quickly, while gaining an increased capacity for transporting personnel and supplies. It will also allow the SVA to provide direct support to the National Coast Guard Service.
The US will be in control of the helicopters for the first two years, during which time it will be responsible for training of SVA pilots and maintenance personnel, undertaking maintenance and providing spare parts, while the SVA will cover operating costs. At the end of the two years, the UH-1STs will be permanently transferred to the SVA. The US Government says the cost of its contribution to supply all these elements of the programme is $43 million.