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CBP wants to detect ultra light aircraft crossing U.S. borders illegally

Eager to detect small, ultra light, slow-moving aircraft, which might be carrying drugs or cash across the U.S. border, Customs and Border Protection is planning to procure what it calls Small Aircraft Detection and Tracking equipment.

“The desired system is intended to be self contained, able to operate with or without power of CBP communications infrastructure to permit deployment in remote areas in all types of weather and terrain conditions,” says a presolicitation notice issued by CBP in June.

The new equipment, which will offer Ultra Light Aircraft Detection, or ULAD, capability, will be procured by CBP on a “full and open competition basis,” says the notice.

The system must be able to transmit real-time sensor data back to a CBP operations center, using either external power, if it is close enough to CBP’s infrastructure, or internal power, if it is deployed to remote locations. Personnel in the operations center must have the same level of control over the detection gear as the operator who is actually on-site with the ULAD system, says CBP.

CBP says it expects to issue a formal RFP for this procurement on or about August 6, and will require responses from prospective vendors within 30 days of its release. CBP, which is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, anticipates awarding a firm-fixed price contract to the winning bidder.

“Vendor will be required to develop an operations and maintenance training curriculum and conduct a training course for a limited number of personnel upon acceptance of the system to permit the Government to operate and deploy the system,” says CBP.

Further information is available from Robert Gerard, a contract specialist, at 571-468-7008 or [email protected].

Incursions of light aircraft from Mexico into the U.S. have begun to occur with increased frequency. For example, the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region intercepted an ultra light aircraft near the Arizona-Mexico border on May 16. Two F-16s from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona, were dispatched at approximately 6 a.m. local time after the aircraft crossed into U.S. airspace from Mexico.

"The Western Air Defense Sector notified us of the track of interest and we began to monitor the aircraft," said Col. William Platt, 601st Air and Space Operations Center chief of combat operations. "WADS quickly established that the aircraft had no flight plan, was not talking or squawking the required beacon code, and was entering U.S. airspace without following established procedures, so the decision was made to scramble F-16s to intercept the aircraft."

A CBP twin engine Cessna C-550 Citation also monitored the ultra light plane until the aircraft crossed the border back into Mexico.

Back in October, 2008, CBP air operations spotted and interdicted an ultra-light aircraft that illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexican border carrying approximately 223 pounds of marijuana, which had an approximate street value of $180,000, according to the CBP.

“Mexican drug trafficking organizations are now operating in every region of the United States,” wrote Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in an online opinion editorial last month on washingtonexaminer.com. “Last year, there were more than 200 incursions of ultra-light aircraft crossing the southwest border. These aircraft have become the transport of choice for many cartel operatives and traffickers to ferry drugs and cash and help give cartels links in virtually every state in America.”


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