(CBP photo)

The End of an Era: AMO Retires C-550 Citation

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) retired its C-550 Citation aircraft. AMO agents flew the high-speed aircraft for the last time Thursday to Houston.

During the 1970s, drug smugglers flew tons of narcotics directly into the United States via private aircraft. The U.S. Customs Service (USCS) needed a high-speed, interceptor aircraft to address this growing vulnerability and found that solution in the C-550.

“The Citation became the workhorse of AMO’s fleet throughout the 80s and 90s. The introduction of this aircraft with its unique intercept and tracking capabilities was the primary factor making illegal air smuggling into the United States a thing of the past,” said Edward Young, Executive Assistant Director, Air and Marine Operations. “It is the perfect example of how a law enforcement agency identifies a threat, develops a solution, trains its people and successfully implements an operational capability. Because of the Citation, this method of delivering illicit contraband into the U.S. no longer exists.”

USCS turned to Cessna to incorporate existing sensor and communication technology onto a Citation II airframe, to create an aircraft that could detect and intercept smugglers. The C-550 was equipped with a military “fire-control” radar, sophisticated infrared camera, modified instrument panels, and law enforcement communication package.

Cessna built 24 of these aircraft on the regular Citation II production line and modified an additional four for USCS. In total, 28 aircraft were built/modified into USCS high performance aircraft. The citation C-550 continued its service under USCS and then with AMO, protecting our nation’s borders for over 40 years.

The C-550 interceptor — along with the Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems and the Air and Marine Operations Center—all but eliminated the illegal use of private aircraft smuggling into the United States.

Since 2012, the C-550 aircraft contributed to $1.4 million in seized currency, seizure of 741 pounds of cocaine, 11,687 pounds of marijuana, 608 pounds of methamphetamine, 83 weapons, 5 aircraft, and 58 vehicles. The C-550 conducted 260 hours of surveillance during Super Bowls, flew 33 hours searching for escaped prisoners in New York in 2015, and 20 hours securing the presidential inauguration and United Nations.

AMO’s four remaining C-550 aircraft will be sold at auction at the end of the year.

AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. AMO interdicts unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks and provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments, and responds to contingencies and national taskings. With approximately 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 serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.

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