Homeland Security


Aerial Surveillance and Sensor Technology

Customs and Border Patrol has an Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Center in Riverside, CA (AMOC) with extensive surveillance and database capabilities. The mission of CBP Air and Marine is to protect the American people and Nation's critical infrastructure through the coordinated use air of integrated air and marine forces to detect, interdict and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs and other contraband toward or across the borders of the United States.

AMOC provides the radar and communications piece of CBP's airspace security system in place over Washington, D.C. and has provided this same extensive radar surveillance capability for a number of significant events, including the Olympics and Super Bowl. Air assets include UH-60 black hawk helicopters, Astar helicopters, long-range P-3 Orion fixed-wing aircraft, and the Pilatus (PC-12), a sophisticated single-engine turbo-prop aircraft that replaced the C-12 aircraft previously in AMO's fleet. The PC-12 is quipped with an extensive sensor package, the Pilatus has short-field take-off and landing capabilities enabling it to deploy rapidly and operate safely in remote areas.

The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with air-to-air radar adapted from U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft. These assets can get airborne in minutes to identify, investigate, intercept, and escort suspect aircraft out of the region.

CBP Border Patrol has several different types of rotary wing aircraft in commission across the United States ranging from Vietnam era OH-6As (Light Observation Helicopters) and UH-1Hs "Hueys" (Medium Lift Helicopters) to the more modern AS350B3 "A Star" helicopter which, is currently the preferred aerial platform for Border Patrol operations. They also aquired a fleet of eight-place, single-turbine MD 600N helicopters.

Approximately 115 CBP Border Patrol aircraft, both fixed wing and rotor, patrol the 6,000+ miles of land and sea borders in the continental United States and Puerto Rico. Valued force multipliers, CBP Border Patrol aircraft routinely assist in search and rescue missions, provide critical surveillance platforms, can control radio communications vital to agent safety while on station, and help enforcement components safely pursue dangerous criminals along interstates and metropolitan roadways taking high-risk vehicle pursuits out of the enforcement equation.

Within the CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operate multiple Air Marine branches.. The ICE protects U.S. borders by combating the threat of air and marine smuggling. This is a priority of ICE because terrorists can exploit the routes, boats, aircraft and other tools used by smugglers as well.

By connecting more than 400 separate radar sites --including aerostat balloons specifically designed to detect low flying aircraft-- into a single, state-of-the-art facility capable of tracking more than 12,000 individual targets per 12-second radar scan, the AMOC provides 24-hour surveillance over much of the western hemisphere. AMOC coverage includes the continental United States from the eastern seaboard to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, throughout the Caribbean basin, and northern Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.

ICE launched an Air and Marine branch along the U.S.-Canada border in 2004 that included one medium lift helicopter, one light enforcement helicopter, one multi-role enforcement aircraft (Pilatus PC-12), one SAFE boat, and one utility boat. The initiative at the Northern border is aimed at shutting down narcotics and human smuggling routes and networks that operate along the U.S.-Canada border with intentions of opening further branched along the border in future years.

In addition to the aircraft utilized by CBP, the U.S. Coast Guard also maintains aircraft capable of aerial surveillance and that are equiped with sensor technology. Avionics upgrades due to take place between FY2005 and FY2009 will include a new forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and radar replacement on the 42 HH-60J's in the Coast Guard's fleet. The HH-60 can provide shore-based aviation surveillance capability and transport. These aircraft are capable of detaching aboard National Security Cutters (NSC) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC).

Coast Guard HC-130H Hercules aircraft remain fully engaged worldwide in support of traditional Coast Guard missions, as well as new missions associated with homeland security. The Hercules fleet comprises 22 operational aircraft stationed at Elizabeth City, N.C.; Clearwater, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Kodiak, Alaska; and Barbers Point, Hawaii. Modifications are ongoing to standardize the myriad cockpit configurations and to install a gearbox chip detector system and up-to-date avionics.

The Coast Guard also has the HC-144A, mission-tailored versions of EADS CASA’s popular CN-235 military transport. It is a transport and surveillance, fixed-wing aircraft that will be used to perform search and rescue missions, enforce laws and treaties including illegal drug interdiction, marine environmental protection, military readiness, and International Ice Patrol missions, as well as cargo and personnel transport. It can perform aerial delivery of search and rescue equipment such as rafts, pumps, and flares, and it can be used for on scene command and control.



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