Military Surveillance Balloons Head Stateside

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is running a test program in Texas using military aerostats to monitor the border.

by / August 17, 2012
DoD photo by Airman Benjamin Andera, U.S. Air Force

Some of the equipment from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is no longer needed and will be deployed in Texas to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection, reported on Aug. 10. Blimp-like balloons, called aerostats, will be used to monitor the ranchlands of the western Rio Grande Valley.

"This is Department of Defense equipment that we are testing and evaluating ... to see what kind of utility it may have in regards to border enforcement," Border Patrol Agent Enrique Mendiola said. "Anytime you can acquire this type of technology or any type of equipment as a force multiplier, it's always welcomed.”

The aerostats, which have cameras that can see 360 degrees, will be tested for several months. “Aerostats’ primary advantages over other platforms capable of providing elevated, persistent surveillance (manned aircraft and UAVs) appear to be low life cycle cost and long dwell time,” according to a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service titled Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats.

Photo courtesy of Airman Benjamin Andera/U.S. Air Force.