The Regional Security System (RSS) Air Wing has been at the forefront of Maritime Counter Drug (CD) surveillance in the Eastern Caribbean since February of 2001 when one of two C-26A aircraft was delivered to the RSS Air Wing fitted with surveillance equipment. Flight operations including training and logistic missions however, actually commenced in January 1999 when the first Aircraft without the Sensor package was delivered to Barbados for use by the RSS. The RSS Air Wing currently operates two Sensor fitted C-26A surveillance aircraft in support of the RSS Member States.
The precedent for the donation of the two aircraft was set in the aftermath of a visit to the region by then President Clinton in 1996 under the auspices of a Presidential Draw down. Under the agreement two aircrafts were to be donated to the Regional Security System by the United States for use in Counter Drug (CD) operations in the Eastern Caribbean.
The first aircraft, which was not outfitted with a sensor package was delivered to Barbados in January 1999, and was officially handed over by then US Ambassador Mr. William Crotty to the Prime-Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon Owen Arthur, at a ceremony held on the South Ramp of the Grantley Adams International Airport. During the same period the second aircraft was delivered to Provincial Airlines in St. John's Newfoundland to be retrofitted with a sensor package. This aircraft was subsequently delivered from St. John's to Barbados on 10 January 01, and officially handed over to Senator Glyne Murray, the representative of the Barbados Government, by Ambassador Dailey, US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
In eight years of flight operations primarily dedicated to maritime Counter Drug operations in the Eastern Caribbean, the Air wing has logged more than 8000 flight hours in support of Regional Coast Guards, law enforcement and International agencies. To date the Air Wing has flown 1791 maritime Counter Drug missions resulting in 356 contacts of Go fasts, Pirogues and other vessels involved in the illicit trafficking of Cocaine and Cannabis making it the busiest CD air operation in the world. (Jane's Intelligence weekly Dec 04 issue).
In support of the Regional Security System the Air wing also provides Logistic support, (troops from the other Member States airlifted into Barbados to support operation RESTORE PEACE following the prison uprising - May 2005 and Cricket World Cup 2007) disaster relief (Grenada - post Hurricane Ivan 2004 approximately 46,000 lbs of relief supplies and 356 personnel airlifted into Grenada) and Search and Rescue (SAR).
The RSS Air Wing has developed a high profile with many International and Regional partners all of whom hold the Air Wing in high regard and work together on many joint initiatives. The experience gained and the high level of training has been invaluable resulting in a significant increase in the success of operations as the unit has improved and fine-tuned its capabilities in conducting tactical maritime surveillance.
The RSS Air Wing is fully committed and will continue to support the Region in its efforts to deny persons involved in the maritime trafficking of illicit drugs. Surveillance operations conducted by the Air Wing over the years clearly demonstrate that the Region is highly vulnerable to the illicit movement of Narcotics, Firearms and human trafficking.