National Guard leaders told lawmakers Tuesday that troops supporting the southern border security mission could be more effective at surveillance with the use of more sophisticated aerial platforms such as the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system.
Guard pilots have been supporting the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol by flying surveillance missions in the UH-72 Lakota helicopter. Texas and Arizona will soon deploy the RC-26B fixed-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to the border as well, Military News reports.
About half of the border force will man entry identification teams, 25 percent will be engineers, 10 percent will provide aviation support and the rest will do base operations, according to information from Tennis.
The soldiers and airmen will support the Border Patrol while the agency hires and trains 6,000 new agents. The Border Patrol now has about 12,000 agents, 88 percent of whom are stationed on the 2,000-mile southwest border, said Gustavo Soto, a supervisory Border Patrol agent in the Tucson sector.
“There are other rotary-wing and remotely piloted systems like MQ-9 and Apache that could be used in night, low-visibility [situations] to help support our customs and border patrol agents out of the normal daytime cycle.
The problem with MQ-9s is always the confusion about we are not asking to pull people back from theater. We are trying to use assets that we presently use for training with our folks there in garrison to keep their training requirements up.
We could put them on mission on the border just like we are going to do with the RC-26.” ~ Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire
- Two high-performance turboshaft engines and maximum cruise speed of 284 kph
- Laser, infrared, and other systems (including target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor) to locate, track, and attack targets
- A combination of laser-guided precision Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets, and a 30mm automatic cannon with up to 1,200 high-explosive, dual-purpose ammunition rounds
Boeing’s AH-64D Apache and the AH-64D Apache Longbow have numerous enhancements, including:
- Longer-range weapons accuracy and all-weather/night fighting
- Detection of objects (moving or stationary) without being detected
- Classification and threat-prioritization of up to 128 targets in less than a minute
- Integrated sensors, networking, and digital communications for situational awareness, management of the combat arena in real time, and digital transmission of images and target locations to joint operations battlefield commanders. Boeing
Primary function: find, fix, and finish targets
Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Power plant: Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine
Thrust: 900 shaft horsepower maximum
Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters)
Length: 36 feet (11 meters)
Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters)
Weight: 4,900 pounds (2,223 kilograms) empty
Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 4,000 pounds (602 gallons)
Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms)
Speed: cruise speed around 230 mph (200 knots)
Range: 1,150 miles (1,000 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Armament: combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions
Crew (remote): two (pilot and sensor operator)
Unit cost: $64.2 million (includes four aircraft, sensors, GCSs, and Comm.) (fiscal 2006 dollars)
Initial operating capability: October 2007
Inventory: total force, 93 Air Force
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.