The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Support Unit was established in 2014. The unit consists of two (2) helicopters, Air-1 and Air-2. Both are OH-58A Bell models originally produced for the United States Army in 1970. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office acquired them through the federal government’s 1033 program, Air-1 in 2015 and Air-2 in 2018. The 1033 program loans military surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies who can justify a need until the agency no longer needs it.
These helicopters are used primarily as observation platforms to supplement ground units. Calls for service include assisting in manhunts, locating missing persons and stolen property and patrolling rural and critical land across Beaufort County. They are also used as force multipliers for ground troops in incidents and events such as parades or other large outdoor functions, providing over-watch for the immediate and surrounding area. The unit is available for calls 24/7 for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies and as mutual aid for other South Carolina agencies.
Each helicopter is equipped with a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office radio to allow communication with ground units, as well as a radio to communicate with other aviation units in the area, such as air traffic control at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the Hilton Head Island Airport.