2012 Air and Marine Milestones and Achievements
- During Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, the Office of Air and Marine (OAM) achieved 81,045 flight hours in the air and 125,131 underway hours on the water.
- OAM's flight and underway hours contributed to:
- 65,093 undocumented aliens apprehended
- 1,038,388 pounds of marijuana seized
- 148,818 pounds of cocaine seized
- $30,435,950 in currency seized
- 526 weapons seized
OAM contributed to a number of significant events in FY 2012:
- Republican/Democratic National Conventions Support: OAM provided support for the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla. from August 26 to September 1, 2012, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. from September 2 to 6 2012. During these National Special Security Events (NSSE) OAM used air assets with streaming video downlink capabilities at the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Multi-Agency Coordination Center and provided interdiction assets to enforce the Temporary Flight Restricted (TFR) Zone. The Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch provided marine interceptor vessels during the RNC to enforce security zones in the waterways surrounding the convention center in Tampa.
- NATO Summit: The newly-founded Chicago Air Unit provided live streaming video to the USSS during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit. During this NSSE, OAM assets flew 54 hours and 30 sorties utilizing 4 AS-350 Light Enforcement Helicopters (LEHs) and 1 AW-139 Medium Lift Helicopter (MLH).
- SUPER BOWL XLVI: OAM coordinated with other law enforcement agencies to enforce the TFR Zone to prevent aircraft from disrupting the activities surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. and provided assistance for security-related incidents. During this NSSE, OAM flew 53 sorties totaling 111 flight hours, utilizing 24 agents, 3 C-550 Interceptor aircraft, 2 AW-139 MLHs and 2 AS-350 LEHs.
In FY 2012, OAM achieved the following significant accomplishments:
- OAM completed the replacement of aircraft wings on 5 P-3 aircraft, increasing the service life of each airframe by an additional 15,000 hours of flight time, or approximately 18 to 20 years of service. OAM also upgraded the transom on 5 Interceptor Class: Coastal 39-Foot Midnight Express marine vessels, extending their service life by approximately 7 to 8 years per vessel.
In December 2011, the new National Marine Training Center (NMTC) opened in St. Augustine, Fla. In an effort to pursue joint agency training initiatives and consolidate facilities, the National Riverine Training Center moved from its temporary location in Brownsville, Texas, to the NTMC. The combined center provides training for Marine Interdiction Agents and Border Patrol Agents conducting maritime operations. In addition to providing training to approximately 500 CBP agents, the NMTC supports international maritime training request through CBP's Office of International Affairs.
- In FY 2012, the NCR Air Branch, responsible for airborne law enforcement support for all agencies in the immediate U.S. Capital area and contingency support in the form of Continuity of Operations for DHS and CBP, was restructured under OAM's National Air Security Operations Directorate. Now known as the National Air Security Operations Center - National Capital Region, NASOC-NCR operates out of sites in Manassas, Va., and Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and was responsible for the seizure of over $4.6 million in illicit monetary trafficking.
P-3 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Long Range Tracker (LRT) aircraft flew over 6,500 hours in FY 2012, significantly contributing to Marine Domain Awareness off the coast of Calif., within the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Transit Zone. P-3 aircraft took part in 123 total detections/intercepts of suspect targets; completed 55 seizure or disruption events, including 2 self-propelled semi-submersible vessel interdictions. Their efforts resulted in the seizure/disruption of 117,103 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of over $8.76 billon.
The Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC) installed and began the testing phase for an exclusive version of the CBP/AMOC Air and Marine Operations Surveillance System (AMOSS) to be utilized by Mexican law enforcement officials to resolve suspect air targets in Northern Mexico, which may have a direct nexus to illicit cross border activity. The bi-national agreement calls for the creation and installation of this unique system and is intended to enhance partner nation capability. The AMOSS is capable of fusing radar data from Mexican sites and select sites along the U.S. Southwest border resulting in greater domain awareness of the airspace over Mexico. This integrated domain awareness will facilitate the monitoring of threat areas and permit more effective bi-national coordination of law enforcement responses to suspicious air traffic operating in Mexican airspace.
The Long Range Radar Joint Program Office's efforts to address the potential mission degradation that wind farms pose to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aviation operations led the agency to formalize a Department-level wind farm evaluation process. As signed by Secretary Janet Napolitano on August 17, 2012, the "DHS Policy for Evaluation of Wind Farms as They Impact Homeland Security" tasks CBP and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to evaluate the mission impact of wind farms and develop strategies that recognize the importance of clean energy generation while preventing and eliminating adverse impacts to DHS missions. The policy is vital to ensure DHS domain awareness capabilities are not eroded while simultaneously supporting the Nation's policy on alternative energy.
After 32 years of service, OAM retired its last Hughes OH-6A helicopter in October 2011. During its service life, the 42 OH-6 helicopters used by CBP and its legacy agencies flew over 1 million hours in support of border security operations. Over the last several years, CBP has replaced the OH-6A with the AS-350 A-Star helicopter, which continues to perform aerial reconnaissance missions equipped with electro-optical/infrared sensors and video downlink capabilities.
In FY 2012, OAM achieved significant accomplishments in its unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program:
- The UAS flew a record 5,736.5 hours in FY 2012, the most in the program's history, and has accumulated over 18,000 flight hours since FY 2006. UAS missions in FY 2012 contributed to the seizure of more than 3,900 pounds of cocaine and 62,000 pounds of marijuana with a combined street value of over $450 million. These results were five times that seized in any previous year. Additionally, UAS missions in FY 2012 contributed to the apprehension of over 1,400 individuals taking part in illicit activities.
In June of FY 2012, OAM conducted its first UAS overseas deployment. OAM deployed the Guardian maritime UAS, a mobile ground control station, eight CBP personnel and seven contractors to San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic in support of Operation Caribbean Focus, which was a coordinated effort of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Joint Interagency Task Force - South. For 45 days, the UAS used its SeaVue maritime radar and persistent covert capability to patrol illicit traffic routes into Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which led to significant illegal narcotics seizures.
In October 2011, OAM received a second UAS at the National Air Security Operations Center - Corpus Christi in Texas. This asset was the first of two UAS funded through the FY 2010 Southwest Border Security Bill Supplemental. The UAS provides critical aerial surveillance for U.S. Border Patrol agents stationed along the Texas-Mexico border.
Significant Law Enforcement Events
The advanced aircraft detection systems of the National Air Security Operations Center - Albuquerque led to record smuggling interdictions along the Southwestern border of the United States, including 28 arrests and the seizure of over 59,000 pounds of marijuana, 16 vehicles and 27 weapons.
On October 27, 2011, a Miami-based UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter successfully deployed Airborne Disabling Fire (ADF) in the interdiction of a suspect vessel. During Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the OAM and DEA crew detected a "lights out" suspect vessel heading from the Bahamas towards Florida at a high rate of speed. When the suspect vessel entered U.S. territorial waters, OAM initiated standard signaling operating procedures for ADF to no avail. As the suspect vessel changed course, OAM agents fired warning shots. In an effort to evade law enforcement, the suspect vessel began evasive maneuvers and jettisoned overboard what appeared to be bales of contraband overboard. After six rounds of disabling fire, the non-compliant vessel stopped. Marine Interdiction Agents from the West Palm Beach Marine Unit arrived on scene, boarded the suspect vessel and detained nine Dominican and five Bahamian nationals. Although authorities weren't able to recover the bales, OAM played an integral role in disrupting a suspected smuggling venture.
On December 1, 2011, OAM agents from the Ft. Pierce Marine Unit assisted DEA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in interdicting a smuggling vessel crossing from the Bahamas to Florida. After a week-long joint investigation, agents captured the vessel and seized over 600 pounds of cocaine, which was hidden in a false compartment in the suspect vessel.
On December 18, 2011, the San Diego Marine Unit received information that a vessel was possibly entering the United States from Mexico. An OAM interceptor located the vessel entering San Diego bay, and referred it to the CBP dock where canine agents signaled that the vessel was carrying illicit cargo. After a targeted search of the vessel using the canine agents as a guide, agents discovered approximately 66 pounds of methamphetamine and 68 pounds of cocaine concealed within false compartments. The vessel was seized along with an associated truck, trailer, GPS and five cell phones by the OAM Marine Interdiction Agents.
On January 18, 2012, OAM agents from the Bellingham Air and Marine Branch supported Blaine HSI agents in their investigation of violations of the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC 2778) and Outbound Smuggling (18 USC554). Execution of three federal search warrants netted firearms and components to include assault weapons, ammunition and over 250,000 assault weapon parts and components. All of the seized weapons and components were identified as Defense Articles and U.S. Munitions List items.
On March 2, 2012, a National Air Security Operations Center - Corpus Christi-based P-3 aircraft operating in the Western Caribbean tracked a go-fast vessel, loaded with suspicious bales, speeding north off the coast of Colombia. Using the intelligence provided by the OAM aircraft, the USCG intercepted the vessel and discovered 4,400 pounds of cocaine worth more than $329 million. The next day, two OAM P-3s in the Western Caribbean detected another go-fast vessel, loaded with suspicious bales, off the coast of Costa Rica. OAM alerted local law enforcement officials who pursued the vessel until it ran aground in Nicaragua, where the four crew members fled into the jungle, leaving behind approximately 6,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $450 million.
OAM established the Chicago Air Unit midway through the fiscal year with one AS-350 helicopter and two air interdiction agents. Though only in existence since April 2012, the Chicago Air Unit has already made its presence known by collaborating with HSI to seize 12 vehicles, 15 weapons, 81 pounds of cocaine, 5.5 pounds of heroin, 19,772 pounds of marijuana, $1,776,566 in currency, and make 74 arrests.
On April 3, 2012, the Houston Air and Marine Branch provided surveillance support to the local HSI office in connection with an ongoing investigation of suspects associated with a major drug smuggling and money laundering organization. This surveillance culminated in a traffic stop in Houston, which yielded $427,468 in seized currency.
On August 22, 2012, San Diego-based Marine Interdiction Agents intercepted a sailboat suspected of smuggling contraband. After talking to the crew, the suspects revealed they were acting as a lookout vessel for a small smuggling operation. Using the intelligence provided by the sailboat crew, a San Diego-based UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter launched to assist. The aircrew detected a twin-engine panga with four persons onboard, off the coast of California near Catalina Island. As the Black Hawk approached, the aircrew observed the individuals jettison bales overboard and began to flee. A marine interceptor vessel launched and was able to stop the suspect vessel. A subsequent search of the vessel and surrounding area yielded the seizure of 2,356 pounds of marijuana, 2 weapons, 2 smuggling vessels, and the arrest of 7 suspects.