Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad was sighted in 1498 by Columbus, who christened it La Isla de la Trinidad for the Holy Trinity. The British took the islands from the Spanish in 1797. Trinidad and Tobago became independent as one nation in 1962, one of the first states of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Transition to independence was quite smooth. There have been regular free, contested elections every five years. An oil boom in the 1970s brought prosperity to the islands but the East Indian community became increasingly isolated from political power, which brought tensions for decades. Since then, the oil business has taken a downturn and the government has implemented austerity programs while boosting its efforts to promote tourism on the islands.
Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force Air Guard
In early 1973, helicopters were purchased, but operations at the Helicopter Unit were transferred to civilian control in 1976 when it was renamed the Air Division of the Ministry of National Security. In 1977 the Air Wing became a separate branch of the TTDF and by 1986 it had about fifty personnel, one Cessna 402B, and six Gazelle and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters. In 1985 a Cessna 310 was acquired.
The Air Division of the Ministry of National Security became the National Helicopter Services Ltd in 1990 and obtained some Bo105 helicopters. These governmental unit provides services to the Ministery of National Security as well as to other public branches, like the national oil industry and medical evacuation services.
Meanwhile the Air Wing saw expansion in the late nineties with the donation two Piper PA-31s and two C-26B Metros, the most capable aircraft in the current inventory. The aircraft are mainly operated in anti-narcotic and maritime patrol roles, patrolling sealanes surrounding the island nation. During this period, changes and increases in manpower also took place. The competition for skilled, qualified personnel within the aviation and oil industry affected the Air Wing badly. The Air Wing was later detached from the Coast Guard and became an independent force as the Air Guard. The force has since been expanded with four AW139 helicopters, whilst the two Pipers have been sold.
To effectively fight crime in the archipelago, the Ministery of National Security formed an independent anti-crime unit as well, named the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT), with several helicopters and an airship being delivered to the unit. The unit has been renamed a few times in the 2010s and now goes by the name of National Operations Centre (NOC), and operates helicopters in policing roles.