US ANG helicopters to assist in border surveillance missions

Wed Feb 29 2012, 17:31 PM

The US Army National Guard’s helicopters will be used to assist the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) department in conducting surveillance operations along the border with Mexico.

CBP spokesman Bill Brooks told Action 4 News that the around 500 National Guardsmen would help CBP in carrying out surveillance mission along the entire southwest border, using helicopters stationed at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, US.

The surveillance helicopters based at Harlingen's Gulf Aviation are not equipped with exterior gun turrets or rocket launchers.

Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said approximately seven helicopters will be used to conduct operations for at least one year, renting out hangar and office space at Gulf Aviation.

Details of the mission, including number of guardsman assigned to each border area, has not been made public but it is widely speculated that the operation will stretch from Rio Grande Valley to Laredo in Texas, US.

The US President Barack Obama has reduced the number of National Guard troops on the border from 1,200 to fewer than 300 in early 2012 citing that the remaining troops would shift focus from patrolling on the ground to aerial surveillance missions using military helicopters and aircraft.

The Mexican Defence Ministry has deployed several military helicopters in the Rio Grande Valley in the past to conduct border surveillance operations.