CBP's Air and Marine Operations is set to secure the sky over Super Bowl 50. Eight aircraft--three Black Hawk helicopters, three Cessna C-550 Citations and two AS350 Astar helicopters--are now positioned at nearby Moffett Field. AMO agents, 65 in all, from various operating locations have set up operations on the field's Air National Guard base specifically for Super Bowl security.
The aircrews will secure the airspace surrounding Levi's Stadium. That space will soon become a temporary flight restriction area as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to John Priddy, the director of operations at the San Diego Air and Marine Branch. Typically, restricted airspace extends to a designated altitude in a radius of several miles surrounding an event.
"If someone [an aircraft] invades that space, we intercept them and get them to exit [the airspace]," he said. Interceptions follow protocols established by the FAA and pilots are expected to comply. For example, if a military or law enforcement aircraft flies next to an intruding aircraft and lowers its landing gear, that's a signal for the intercepted aircraft to land.
"We will have aircraft in the air throughout the day and standby aircraft on the ground," said Ned Leonard, detection enforcement officer at the San Diego Air and Marine Branch. Standby aircraft could assist law enforcement on the ground responding to an incident or insert a tactical team, for example.
AMO aircrews also have a powerful tool that gives law enforcers on the ground, and even CBP officers and agents across the country in Washington, D.C., a picture of ground activity while it's happening. Each aircraft has a camera that transmits footage of the area being flown. The video downlink, as it's called, is fed into CBP's intranet. The virtually real time transmissions are received by the Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California; by officers on the ground using hand-held video devices; and even personnel at remote stations. Other law enforcers involved with Super Bowl security can be given access to view what AMO pilots see, explained Leonard.
"The video can be recorded, played back and evaluated if someone spots something suspicious,” he added.
The aircraft are also equipped with infrared cameras, allowing observers to see people and vehicles at night, overall giving law enforcement tremendous situational awareness of their surroundings. With all those eyes on the monitors, as well as agents viewing from the aircraft, hardly anything will escape being noticed.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.