Archive for December 10, 2009

HOMELAND SECURITY (Dec. 10, 2009)

General Atomics photo

Guardian Unveiled

The Guardian, a General Atomics Predator B laden with maritime sensor equipment — including Raytheon’s SeaVue Marine Search radar — makes its public debut at the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Gray Butte facility in Palmdale, Calif.

Once operational testing and evaluation is completed, the latest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) will be based at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a unit of Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

Seated on the dais at the Dec. 7 ceremony (from left to right) GA-ASI President Thomas Cassidy, CBP Assistant Commissioner Michael Kostelnik, the head of CBP’s Air and Marine Office; and Admiral Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant. CBP and the Coast Guard, both Homeland Security Department agencies, have been working together for more than a year on developing a land-based UAS for maritime air patrols.

In an interview with 4GWAR before leaving for California, Kostelnik said the first Guardian will patrol for drug smugglers in the airspace over south Florida and the Caribbean. Another Guardian is scheduled for delivery in early 2010, bringing CBP’s UAS fleet to seven aircraft. The second Guardian’s maritime radar will not be ready for several months, however, so it won’t start operations until summer 2010, Kostelnik says. Three land-based Predators already at Libby Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz. will continue to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.  Two other land-based Predators are located at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota to patrol the border with Canada.

The second maritime variant will eventually be based in Corpus Christi, Texas and patrol the Gulf of Mexico and later as far south as the waters off Central America. Kostelnik says there are no immediate plans to base a Predator in California to patrol the Pacific coast.

General Atomics photo

The maritime sensor package includes an electro-optical/infrared sensor to optimize maritime operations. The standard Predator B, with structural, avionics and communications enhancements, can fly at speeds up to 250 knots at an altitude of 19,000 feet.  Both Kostelnik and Allen call it a “force multiplier.”

John M. Doyle (https://4gwar.wordpress.com)

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December 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment


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