Sep 08, 2010

Expansion increases operations to 1,200 miles along border

Corpus Christi, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announces today the beginning of operations for its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program (UAS) from the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station during an official ceremony at its facilities on the naval base. The UAS flights performed from this location will provide critical aerial surveillance assistance to CBP border security personnel on the ground along the Texas-Mexico border.

“Over the last year, CBP worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Navy to obtain approvals to operate the CBP Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, and routinely fly across the entire Texas-Mexico land border” said CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. “The expansion of UAS demonstrates CBP’s commitment and dedication to maintain the highest levels of public safety and security and represents another layer of our strategy to fulfill our mission of securing our borders while facilitating travel and trade.”

The FAA recently approved two Certificates of Authorization (COA) requests that will enable CBP to operate a CBP UAS in Texas airspace. The first allows access into Texas from Arizona to the Big Bend border region. The second enables CBP to launch and recover a UAS from Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, and to operate along the entire Texas land border, coastal region, and over open water.

The two COAs provide CBP the capability to simultaneously operate two unmanned aircraft along the southwest border: one aircraft operated by the National Air Space Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi and a second aircraft flying from the National Air Space Security Operations Center in Sierra Vista Arizona. Furthermore, CBP UAS flights can now cover the entire Texas border and Gulf Coast region.

On the Southwest border, CBP operates now Predator Bs from Sierra Vista, Arizona and Corpus Christi, Texas. The missions from these two centers will allow CBP to deploy its unmanned aircraft from the eastern tip of California across the common Mexican land borders of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

CBP identified NAS Corpus Christi as a location for its fourth UAS Operations Center because it will allow for the greatest support of the CBP Air and Marine Strategic Plan to secure the Gulf of Mexico and shared border between Texas and Mexico, and will allow for the most effective execution of counter-drug operations in the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Additionally, basing a CBP UAS at NAS Corpus Christi best postures CBP for rapid deployment throughout the southern tier of the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere. This operational capability increases CBP ability to provide disaster relief and humanitarian support in the Gulf Coast region. CBP currently has one of its two P-3 Operations Centers located at NAS Corpus Christi.

Since the inception of the CBP UAS Program, the Office of Air and Marine has flown more than 7,130 UAS hours, responding to more than 4,000 requests for support from CBP agents on the ground and in support of CBP partners in disaster relief and emergency response, including various state governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The efforts of this program, the Nation’s first UAS program for homeland security, has led to the seizure of approximately 39,000 pounds of illicit drugs and the detention of more than 7,000 individuals suspected in engaging in illegal activity along the Southwest Border. Bushtex, Inc., a contractor of GA-ASI, will provide the Satellite technicians to man the ground stations, as well as, receive and transmit data.

For more information contact:

Kimberly Kasitz
Public Relations Manager
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Juan A. Muñoz Torres
(202) 359-2641

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