Washington, D.C. – A second Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will soon be based in Texas in an effort to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border. The Predator UAV is equipped with an electro-optical/infrared sensor system that vastly improves the operational effectiveness in CBP missions and is drone with synthetic aperture radar suitable for flights in darkness and inclement weather. By the end of 2011, the next UAV will be stationed at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station alongside the Guardian UAV, which began service including maritime missions earlier this year.
“That will give us six aircraft on the Southwest border and because of the ops concept and the way we fly them on any given day there could be three or more aircraft in Texas. And they’re routinely now flying nightly not only in the Rio Grande Valley but up through Laredo and up to El Paso,” testified Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik, who oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s UAV program, responding to Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) and Michael McCaul (R-Austin) during Tuesday’s Homeland Security subcommittee hearing.
Congressmen Cuellar and McCaul have lead bipartisan efforts to increase the use of technology to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in April, they requested that DHS increase UAV coverage in Texas.
“The addition will further allow CBP to receive precise, real time surveillance, allowing the deployment of fewer agents in a specific area, while intercepting drugs, human smuggling and acts of terrorism,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Our vigilant efforts to secure the border, through the work of Maj. Gen. Kostelnik, the Department of Homeland Security and Congressman McCaul’s bipartisan efforts will be ongoing.”
Presently, of the four UAVs located on the southern border, three are stationed in Arizona while one, which is classified as a maritime unit, is based in Texas. The Texas UAV, the Guardian, is assigned to the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station to uniquely perform surveillance of both the border region and Gulf of Mexico. Texas, however, shares 1,254 miles of border with Mexico compared with Arizona’s 370- mile boundary.
Congressman Henry Cuellar is a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security and Agriculture Committees. Job creation, accessibility to constituents, education, economic development, and national security are his priorities. Congressman Cuellar is also a Vice Chairman of the Steering and Policy Committee, Senior Whip, and member of the Blue Dog Coalition.