Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Andrew Holness (centre); and Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Major General Rocky Meade (left), unveil a plaque commemorating Wednesday’s (November 14) commissioning of the JDF’s new Maritime Patrol Aircraft Hangar, situated at the JDF Air Wing Manley Base, Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston. The facility will serve as the operational base for the JDF’s newly established Maritime Air and Cyber Command. Looking on is the Unit’s Commander, Captain Antoinette Weymss Gorman.
The Bell 429 helicopters, which along with a Beechcraft King Air 350 ER Maritime Patrol aircraft, have been acquired for the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) newly established Maritime Air and Cyber Command. The Command is housed at the JDF’s new Maritime Patrol Aircraft Hangar, situated at the JDF Air Wing Manley Base, Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston.
Yhomo Hutchinson/JIS Photos
Government handed over a new hangar, equipped with a surveillance aircraft and helicopters
To the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) Air Wing, on Wednesday, November 14.
The newly commissioned Manley Base, located mere moments away from the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston, boasts a King Air 350 Extended Range aircraft and two Bell 429 helicopters.
In his remarks, Major General Rocky Meade noted that the new aircraft will increase the Coast Guard/Air Wing’s maritime awareness, intelligence gathering, maritime patrol and border security as well as to carry out search and rescue missions.
At the ceremony, attended by high-ranking military officials from JDF, the United States as well as local and international diplomats, Prime Minister Andrew Holness heralded the need for greater maritime security as Jamaica’s territorial waters occupy a space 25-times larger that the land itself.
“[This] represents one of the single-largest investments by any government of Jamaica in the area of security, and marks a transformation in our approach to intelligence gathering and maritime security,” Holness said.
According to Holness, the addition to the JDF’s aerial capability will improve the presumption of the Caribbean region having “porous borders and limited resources”, while reducing many threats including, “terrorism and the proliferation of weapons; illegal trafficking of drugs, people and arms; the intentional and unlawful damage to the marine environment; [and] unregulated fishing.”
Prime Minister Holness further noted that that Jamaica is the only Caribbean territory to possess such aircraft capabilities and will be pushing to acquire more vessels to bring the total to nine helicopters and three aircraft for the Air Wing.
For his part, Military Deputy Commander of the United States Southern Command Lt General Michael Plehn congratulated that government and the JDF as the US military celebrates 56 years of partnership with Jamaica.
“This effort clearly demonstrates your commitment to Jamaica’s security and on behalf of the United States Southern Command we would like to congratulate you on fielding this aircraft and these helicopters and this hanger,” he said.
“We need to work together to reduce illicit trafficking and criminal networks across the region, undermining the security of our citizens and the sovereignty of our countries. In the face of these challenges, we remain united by shared vision and values and a history of strong collaboration,” Plehn added.