Exelis supports Customs and Border Protection with upgrade of aerostat surveillance system

October 7, 2014

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine Operations Center announced this week full operations of eight helium-filled balloon surveillance systems, which will provide persistent radar coverage of the Mexico-United States border, the Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico.

Under the program, called Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS), prime contractor Exelis enables CBP to provide border monitoring and enforcement of low-level aircraft and small vessels approaching areas under surveillance. The TARS aerostats have proven to be an important and cost effective tool in thwarting illegal drug and human smuggling since their first deployment in the U.S. more than 30 years ago.

"Exelis is proud to support CBP's restoration of this program to full operational capability for the first time in three years," said Pam Drew, president of Information Systems at Exelis. "We have supported the TARS program for over a decade and are fully committed to the CBP mission of safeguarding our nation's borders."

The TARS aerostats use helium for deployments as high as 12,000 feet. This allows long-range radars to overcome line-of-sight constraints caused by the curvature of the earth's surface and other terrain impediments. The aerostats are tethered to a winch system on the ground and are lowered when not in use.

The former U.S. Customs Service began the aerostat program in 1978 and the U.S. Air Force expanded the program in the 1980s to provide monitoring capabilities to several federal agencies. In 2013, CBP assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the aerostat systems. CBP's TARS operational locations are in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico.

For more information on Exelis support of TARS, visitwww.exelisinc.com/TARS.