Texas will be getting another eye in the sky
Second aerial drone is coming to Corpus Christi.
By Gary Martin
WASHINGTON — A second unmanned aerial vehicle soon will be based at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, providing surveillance of the Gulf Coast and the U.S.-Mexico border above Texas, officials said Wednesday.
A third Predator drone maintained in Arizona is used to monitor Texas border areas over the Big Bend region and El Paso.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik, who heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection UAV program, told a House Homeland Security subcommittee the new drone would provide additional surveillance, and “on any given day there could be three or more (unmanned) aircraft in Texas.”
“Technology is part of the long-term solution to securing the border,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin.
McCaul said an additional UAV in Texas would provide both federal and state law enforcement more surveillance capabilities to detect smugglers.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the UAVs would allow Customs and Border Protection to receive “real time” surveillance, so it could deploy fewer agents in a specific area.
Cuellar said intelligence gathered by the UAVs would be shared by federal agencies and local law enforcement to better fight drug and immigrant traffickers along the sparsely populated border in South Texas.
“You have a lot of police chiefs and sheriffs that would love to have this information,” Cuellar said. “The more they can share with the (Texas) Department of Public Safety and local folks, the better it is.”
The new drone is equipped with an infrared sensor system that allows the UAV to operate and provide surveillance during inclement weather.
The Predator drone, operated by Customs and Border Protection at the Corpus Christi air base, would compliment a maritime Guardian UAV that began border surveillance and Gulf Coast missions earlier this year, Cuellar said.
In addition to border security, the Guardian UAV can be used for search and rescue missions and monitoring hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gov. Rick Perry, who’s considering a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, repeatedly has criticized the Obama administration for failing to provide drones to help secure the border.
Texas shares 1,254 miles of border with Mexico but housed only one UAV, while three drones are stationed in Arizona, which has 370 miles of shared border.
But the deployment of drones to Arizona has provided border surveillance from El Paso to San Diego, Calif., Napolitano said.
The Obama administration also sought the two additional drones for the Southwest border in a $600 million border security bill approved by Congress last year.
Kostelnik told the House panel this week that the new drones would be stationed at Corpus Christi and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Customs and Border Protection now will operate six drones along the Southwest border.