The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard Air Wing started as the aerial arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (Coast Guard). It was established in February 1966 to perform the functions of surveillance and search and rescue in support of the surface units. The Air Wing is located at Piarco International Airport where it occupies eleven (11) acres of land Cabinet by Cabinet Minute # 1936 dated 28 July 2005 approved the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard as a separate Formation Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and the decommissioning of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard Air Wing on the south-western side of the airport.
THE FORMATION OF THE TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AIR GUARD:
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago envisages a shift from its post-independence mode with its vision of making Trinidad and Tobago a developed nation by the year 2020 which would see the establishment of a credible military force, which will be capable of conducting regional SAR, intra-regional trade route patrols and contributing to local security, regional security and defence operations. The government also sees the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force developing and maintaining a leadership role with respect to civil protection and regional security with the capacity to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security internationally.
In 2003 the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago announced an initiative to construct a regional natural gas pipeline to extend from Trinidad to Antigua and eventually west to Jamaica. The construction of this pipeline would therefore mean that the country’s petrochemical interest would now extend a considerable distance beyond its EEZ. This would therefore see the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force committed to the task of securing Trinidad and Tobago’s economic interest both locally and regionally.
In order to have this capacity to defend the sovereign good of the republic to such an unprecedented distance, the Coast Guard will need to acquire Off-shore Patrol Vessels. To give these vessels extended surveillance range and over the horizon capability it was envisaged that they must be capable of carrying helicopters on board. The development of a rotary wing capability within the Defence Force was then seen as a necessity.
The existence of the Air wing already provides the government with a platform upon which to build this capability.
As a result the Chief of Defence Staff was been mandated to transform the Air Wing into a separate military aviation body called the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard, with the capability to support the new roles and functions assigned to the Defence Force. With the formation of the Air Guard the unit will be able to provide enhanced aviation support to law enforcement agencies as well as improved and extended aerial search and rescue and surveillance capability. The Air Guard will also provide aviation support for naval, land based and disaster relief operations both locally and regionally.
The Air Guard would therefore affords the Defence Force the ability to fulfill its commitment to protect the people, natural and economic resources of Trinidad and Tobago and also to perform its regional obligations.
The Cabinet on 28th July 2005 granted approval for the transition of the existing Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (Air Wing) into the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard with effect from 1st August 2005.
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