With the War in Iraq over and the War in Afghanistan winding down, the Department of Homeland Security has the option to acquire hand-me-down aircraft from the Armed Forces to fill out Coast Guard and Border Patrol fleets. But with 8.2 percent budget cuts due in March, the department may lack the funding to repair and refurbish combat-battered planes.
Fortunately, the DHS has a cheaper option: adapt commercial aircraft for coast and border patrol. A new report from the public-policy think tank Lexington Institute explains that commercial airplanes come with a large civilian market and supply chain, making replacement parts much cheaper than their military equivalents and allowing the planes to be in service much longer than war-worn aircraft.
One promising commercial option is the Super King Air 350, which has already been adopted by several air forces, including that of the British Royal Navy. The Super King is notable for its fuel efficiency, ability to take off from relatively short runways, widespread commercial supply chain, and, importantly, 1,500-mile range. A fact sheet about the plane published by Customs and Border Patrol also describes a trio of sensors and radar that would make the Super King very useful for patrolling vast stretches of border and coast.
The budget realities facing the DHS, along with the recommendations in the Lexington Institute report, can tell us a bit about the desired future of Homeland Security aircraft use. That future may continue to include drones and surplus military helicopters and aircraft, but it is just as likely to feature cheaper, manned commercial planes with the same sensors doing similar patrols.
Having customs and the coastguard do border patrol use of a civil aircraft is a step in the right direction.
You can buy and fly a lot of Cessna 172s for the cost a single predator drone.
Though I think DHS should be disbanded and things returned to how they were before 9-11 as the department tends to waste money and forget about things like the first, fourth and fifth amendments.
We need to dump Homeland. It was a clusterfudge before it was even created, granting no legitimate power to any branch of government that did not already exist before it's formation. It was supposed to be the agency to end the turf wars, but they are worse than before, with every agency, Homeland included, willing to let ANY bad thing just happen in this country rather than 'take' another agency doing their damn jobs.
According to what was in the air when it was made, it was in response to our lack of response on the 9-1-1 attack, where we were taking daily reports from around the world telling us we were to be attacked and no one responded.
Except now we find that there was response. That they were acting on knowledge, and securing financial assets...and preparing to wait until the bounty from the attack dropped criminal billions into the waiting hands.
Then they form Homeland. And knew of the impending attack on our State Department personnel and many other murderous things that get ignored worse now than before Homeland was formed.
The Civil Air Patrol has over 500 general aviation aircraft that could (and sometimes are) used for homeland security. The volunteer force of pilots provide an affordable source of aerial reconnaissance. Many of the pilots are retired military or commercial pilots with enormous experience.
Not sure this resource is being adequately utilized. I have flown for them for five years for AFROTC training and orientation flights and other local missions. Love to see the force expanded into these tangible missions.
The Border Patrol does not have aircraft within the agency as it did prior to 2005. The Air and Marine Branch of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the aircraft. Prior to 2005, the Chief Patrol Agent (CPA) for each of the 26 Border Patrol Sectors had control of the aircraft and Pilots assigned to the Sector. Presently, the CPA must request the Air and Marine Branch to assist the Border Patrol Agents in the field.
Adding aircraft to the inventory is now the function of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). What it amounts to is creating a larger kingdom for the bureaucrats and political hackies within the Air and Marine Branch. A local office has one fixed wing and one rotary-wing aircraft available for duty. The local office also has seven or eight pilots, plus administrative staff and mechanics. The office is encumbered by a small number of flight hours per quarter, somewhere between 100 and 150 hours. The flight hours are budget driven. That is 50 hours per 30 days. That is just over one and one-half hours of flight per day. Between the Cascades mountain range and mid-Montana, it is far more than one and one-half hours.
The Air and Marine Branch does not need a Super King Air 350. That is, unless there is a shortage within the kingdom.