A 208-foot long white blimp has been floating two miles above Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, using radar continuously to scan the area along the border, looking for low-flying aircraft drug smugglers use to bring drugs into the United States. The sensors on board can detect activity in distances of up to 230 miles. The blimp, had been operated by the U.S. Air Force, but DHS has now assumed responsibility for it. It is one of eight aerostats deployed along the U.S. southern border.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has grounded and taken control over the huge white aerostat balloon Yuma, Arizona residents have become accustomed to see floating over Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) northeast of the city.
The blimp, had been operated by the U.S. Air Force since 1989.
“The Department of Homeland Security accepted Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) operations and executive responsibilities from the U.S. Air Force over the summer,” stated Bill Brooks, Branch Chief for the Southwest Border Media Division of the Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs.
“DHS will manage and maintain the TARS system for the foreseeable future as part of our comprehensive portfolio of border security and surveillance tools.”
The enormous helium and air filled blimp, when in use, floats two miles above YPG about fifty miles from Yuma. The blimp uses radar continuously to scan the area along the border, looking for low-flying aircraft drug smugglers use to bring drugs into the United States.
The 208-foot long blimp is tethered to the ground by cable, and the sensors on board can detect activity in distances of up to 230 miles.
The Yuma balloon is one of eight aerostats deployed along the U.S. southern border. The other blimps are located in Texas, New Mexico, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, and Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“The TARS system complements numerous other surveillance technologies, such as drones and satellites, to enhance our understanding of events along our borders and to assist our responses as situations warrant,” Brooks said. “DHS will continue to seek out ways to enhance the current system to maintain this very important part of our nation’s security.”
In December 2011, the Pentagon announced that owing to budgetary constraints, the Department of Defense would end its sponsorship of the TARS program.
Members of the Arizona Congressional delegation urged DHS to assume responsibility of the program, and DHS agreed.
“The Yuma TARS site is critically important for our nation’s security,” Brooks said. “As such, the Department is now taking necessary steps to restore the Yuma site to full operational capability as quickly as we can.”