“ASTRO” is the bread and butter mission at ASD. Historically, it has generated approximately 80% of the Division’s total flight time. An ASTRO aircrew consists of one Command Pilot and one Tactical Flight Officer (TFO). The aircrew monitors citywide police radio frequencies, they respond to calls for service and make aerial observations based on their experience as police officers. In effect, ASTRO can be thought of as a patrol car in flight. In fact, The Air Support motto is, “The mission is the same, only the vehicle has changed.”
ASTRO is the Department’s “Force Multiplier,” enabling a smaller work force to complete assigned and assumed tasks.
When utilizing an LAPD helicopter and ASTRO aircrew over the scene:
▪ Fewer ground-based officers are required at crime scenes and perimeters.
▪ Ground-based officers have a significantly increased sense of security.
▪ Ground-based officers are kept in tactical advantage and out of questionable situations.
▪ Vehicle pursuit management is positive, direct and reduces associated liabilities.
▪ Ground-based officer injuries and deaths are significantly reduced.
Benefits of the Force Multiplier effect include more ground-based officers available for assignment, increased productivity and personal well being and reduction of liability claims against the City.
The Special Flights Section (SFS) was created in 1976 to provide surveillance and support for detectives and undercover operations. The SFS has become critical to narcotics investigations and has been a significant contributor to the seizure of contraband valued in the billions of dollars.
Beyond ASTRO and SFS, Air Support Division missions are comprehensive and provide assistance to nearly every facet of the department:
▪ Department field operations, especially geographic patrol divisions.
▪ Tools utilized include the 30 million candle power night sun, high powered / gyro stabilized binoculars and FLIR (infrared) are unsurpassed for not only catching criminals but also for locating physical evidence. Other tools include a GPS moving map display, stolen vehicle tracking system (LOJACK) also video taping and downlink capabilities.
▪ Immediate needs of specialized entities: Metro K-9 Unit, Bomb Squad, Underwater Dive Unit, The Mounted unit, Robbery/Homicide command staff and officer transport to crime scenes, priority photo reconnaissance and more.
▪ Assisting with LAPD’s Emergency Operations Command Center responding to major disasters. ASD provides a comprehensive Damage Assessment Program, Command and Control, airborne video and microwave downlink, crowd estimates and crowd control.
▪ Department training activities such as Recruit Training, Police Service Representative training and Sergeant’s School Training.
▪ Department’s community-based policing activities such as neighborhood watch meetings, public meetings, tours, and “Open House” events.
▪ Department’s recruitment activities such as (static) displays of aircraft, community job fairs, career panel discussions, slide show presentations, and more.