Not since 2008 has CBP’s Air and Marine Operations El Paso Air Branch (AMO El Paso) flown the U.S. military’s premier utility helicopter – the UH-60 Black Hawk – in support of border security operations. The UH-60 is the most ubiquitous military helicopter in the world, and probably the most versatile. It will replace older UH-1N “Huey” helicopters that will be retired and sold.
The UH-60A+ version transferred to El Paso AMO from the U.S. Army will greatly increase the unit’s capability to accomplish its missions. The Black Hawk provides a 10% increase in speed over the Huey or AS-350 (the most used helicopter in AMO El Paso), a 25% increase in service ceiling over the AS-350, 67% increase in range over the AS-350 and more than double that of the Huey, and a 50% increase in endurance over the AS-350.
The Black Hawks will enable AMO El Paso to get to a location faster, remain longer, and carry more people, systems, or cargo in all kinds of weather. Missions will include aerial patrols, external lift operations such as sling loads, fast rope and rappel operations, insertion of agents into otherwise inaccessible terrain, search and rescue, and aircrew rifle operations. Other capabilities will allow better communication with, and guidance of, law enforcement partners. The first of two Black Hawks allocated to AMO El Paso arrived on November 4th, and pilots immediately began qualifications training on the new platform. The second unit is scheduled to arrive by spring. A UH-60L scheduled to arrive in 2021 will add to AMO El Paso’s ability to rapidly provide medical aid in the field and to transport those needing medical attention.
“The speed and range of the UH-60 platform is a game-changer for AMO El Paso, where distance and terrain often impact our operations,” said John Stonehouse, Director of CBP’s El Paso Air Branch. “The versatility of the UH-60 helicopters will give the El Paso Air Branch the ability to rapidly respond to law enforcement emergencies with a tactical team, or to medical emergencies with EMTs on board. This asset can also be deployed during natural disasters to assess damage and to transport supplies, emergency personnel, and injured victims.”
The mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, is to serve and protect the American people by employing advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities and our unique skill sets to increase America’s security. With 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft, and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO uses its sophisticated fleets to detect, track, intercept, and apprehend criminals in diverse environments at, and beyond, U.S. borders.
So far since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2020 in October, AMO agents have participated in the apprehension of 4,153 individuals by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security components. In addition, AMO agents have contributed to the seizure of 11,488 pounds of cocaine, 910 pounds of marijuana, 192 pounds of methamphetamine, 45 pounds of fentanyl, and one pound of heroin, while supporting interagency and international partners.