The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is taking measures to secure the northern border of the United States. Today they are having the official opening of the North Dakota Air Branch at Grand Forks International Airport. This is number 4 out of 5 new facilities that will strengthen the CBP’s capability along the northern border by adding to the existing air and sea law enforcement as well as providing for increased surveillance and airport security.
When they are at full capacity, this Air Branch will have a total of up to 50 pilots, air enforcement agents and mission support personnel. As far as the equipment goes, they will have: two UH-60 Blackhawk interdiction and apprehension helicopters, two EC-120 light observation helicopters, one AS 350B3 helicopter, two Cessna 206 surveillance and training aircraft, two Cessna 550 Citation II intercept aircraft, one Pilatus PC-12 surveillance and tracking aircraft, and Predator B unmanned aircraft systems. These will be used to providing high altitude detection and surveillance support to the manned crafts.
The Air Branch will be able to support border security operations as well as conduct regular mission patrols . They will also be equipped for rapid incident response.
The Border Patrol has had a small air detachment in North Dakota ever since 1956, but in 2004, the Department of Homeland Security, with the approval and support of the Congress, began formulating A coordinated Northern Border Air Wing, which when completed will have the five air and marine branches, of which this is number four, along the Northern Border so that the U.S. Canadian border will have the same level of success with air and sea border security that they have built up along the Southern Border.
The site in North Dakota was chosen in 2005. At that time the CBP combined all the different air and sea assets under the CBP Office of Air and Marine.
The other three sites that have already opened as part of the DHS Northern Border Air Wing are two that were opened in 2004, at Bellingham, Wash. and Plattsburg, N.Y. Number three was opened in 2006 in Great Falls, Mont. and the fifth and last one is scheduled to be opened in the spring of 2008 in Detroit There are also three older branches that are still a part of the air wing and those are located in Spokane, Wash., Buffalo, N.Y. and Houlton, Ma.
This branch will expand the coverage along the borders of North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. They will coordinate their efforts with those of state, local and Canadian agencies.
Source; U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency http://www.customs.gov/x