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HistoryU. S. Customs Service HistoryHistory

Circa 2011

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Orions On Station - By Stephanie Stinn Posted 5 November 2011..." WebSite: Lockheed Martin Code One http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=85 [12JAN2012]

What do drugs and Volkswagen Beetles have to do with the P-3 Orion? Tons, literally speaking.

From October 2010 to September 2011, P-3 Orion crews from US Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine, or CBP OAM, stopped more than 150,000 pounds of drugs with a value equal to more than $1.8 billion—and with a weight equal to seventy-five Volkswagen Beetles—from entering the United States.

In May 2011, CBP P-3 crews assisted in a record-setting disruption of more than $30 million worth of cocaine in one day. The P-3 crews observed approximately forty bales of cocaine on board a vessel northeast of Nicaragua. The crews alerted a nearby US Coast Guard cutter and Honduran law enforcement to the inflatable boat and its contraband cargo. CBP P-3 crews observed the vessel dump six bales of cocaine before it was intercepted by a Honduran vessel. In the end, thirty-six bales containing 2,420 pounds of cocaine were apprehended on that one day.

Nicaragua and drug trafficking may seem like distant situations for many, but these seizures have a larger translation that applies directly to everyday life.

If these drugs hadn't been stopped off the coast of Central America, the cargo would have been systematically smuggled into the US. From there, the drugs would have been broken down in quantity and sold. These are the same drugs that led to the arrest of 1.6 million people in 2010 as reported by the FBI. These are the same drugs that prompted the US government to spend more than $15 billion in 2010 on the war on drugs—or roughly $500 per second—according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Drugs are a very real and expensive problem in the United States. And they are a problem that isn't going away.

While the drug war isn't an easy one to fight, the CBP's P-3 crews are doing what they can to break this process at the source—literally. The crews rely on what is called a defense and depth strategy that interdicts large-scale drug loads at their countries of origin, which are largely in South America. Once a drug load successfully leaves its point of origin, a drug runner delivers it to Central America and Mexico, where it is broken down into smaller loads that are easier to smuggle into the US.

"We start hitting the drugs at the source zone and keep hitting them in the transit zone. Hopefully, by the time they reach the arrival zone, we've picked up a good percentage of them," said Lothar Eckardt, director of the CBP OAM P-3 Operations Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"In many ways, drug trafficking is still a rudimentary operation with some smugglers opting to transport the contraband on such basic vessels as inflatable boats. Other smugglers are extremely progressive—investing large sums of money into covert, sophisticated semi-submersibles, and even moving toward submarines to traffic drugs," Eckardt noted.

Transportation methods may vary, but there is one constant in the equation: the CBP P-3 Orion crews remain the biggest obstacles in a drug smuggler's path. "They know we are there. They see us," Eckardt added. "We have footage of them pointing at us and dumping their load, trying to get away."

When a CBP P-3 crew deploys on a drug interdiction mission—or on any of its missions, actually—it is usually of long duration. Typical missions range anywhere from eight to ten hours, with some lasting as long as sixteen hours. Crews are flying at varying levels, tracking numerous vessels and combating various natural conditions. A controlled and predictable situation is rare. Missions are difficult and time consuming. For CBP, the P-3 offers flexibility and the ability to stay on station for long periods of time.

"The great thing about the P-3 is that some of those flights take us out into very remote parts of the ocean where there's nobody around. We want Old Reliable to take us out there to do our mission and bring us back home again," Eckardt said. "Time and time again, the P-3 has proven to be that Old Reliable."

Photo by John Rossino.

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Circa 2005

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...CBP AIR P-3 Aircrews: Unseen Workhorses of the Katrina Recovery Effort - By U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Sep 19, 2005, 06:15..." WebSite: CommunityDispatch.com http://communitydispatch.com/artman/publish/article_2100.shtml [03OCT2005]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air P-3 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Long-Range Tracker (LRT) aircraft crews have over the last two weeks, flown sight unseen, high above the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, providing constant aerial support that is critical to search and rescue operations and critical relief efforts. Since the beginning of this crisis, these crews have flown more than 20 hours a day providing coordination of search and rescue missions, real-time communications links and real-time video to disaster-response planners.

Operating out of Corpus Christi, TX and Jacksonville, FL, the AEW's mission, routinely flown at 16,500 feet, is to scan the Katrina-affected area using its high-powered radar to provide a real-time air picture that enables the crew to supply advisory information to first responders, technical teams, military units, and any one of the over 600-900 aircraft sorties operating every day in the restricted airspace above the damaged area.

These AEW aircraft, much like the U.S. Air Force Airborne Warning and Control System (AWAC's), are capable of searching a 200,000 square mile radius every eight seconds. Using their radar to produce an air picture over the Katrina ravaged site, the aircrews provide an advisory service that de-conflicts, or organizes, incoming and outgoing air traffic, allowing a safe, uninterrupted flow of personnel and resources.

With an extensive communications suite, the AEW's also function as a flying communications tower. With ground-based communications systems knocked out, the AEW's have been providing communications services that allow the first responder network of fire, police and other emergency services to talk to each other.

Working in tandem with the AEW's, the P-3 LRT's on scene have been flying daily video assessment missions. The LRTs, which fly at a lower altitude of 2,500 feet, initially served the needs of FEMA's Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) teams.

Launching at the first opportunity after the passage of the storm, these aircraft provided a real-time video down link to FEMA's headquarters and a multitude of other governmental agencies, allowing emergency managers to coordinate the insertion of the RNA teams, flying aboard CBP Black Hawk helicopters, into the most critical areas. This on-demand function gave the assessment teams vital information on where to focus their resources.

In addition to supporting FEMA's work, the LRT has also provided real-time situational awareness to the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division operating in New Orleans. By providing the same real-time video down link to the 82's headquarters element, the troops on the ground were able to more effectively deploy and concentrate their search efforts.

The LRT crews have also employed the technology of the onboard Forward-Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) cameras, detecting eight new fires in one night that were invisible to the naked eye. Fire and rescue teams were then directed to these hot spots and were able to contain the blazes before they could spread and become a larger problem.

While continuing to support the Katrina relief effort, CBP Air recently received a request from FEMA to duplicate this air and communications support in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Ophelia, which is currently approaching the Outer Banks of the Carolinas. CBP aircraft and crews are preparing in coordination with FEMA in the event that they are needed for similar missions later this week.

These same CBP Air P-3 aircrews continue to play a critical role in stopping drugs, terrorists, and illegal aliens from entering the United States. Flying missions over the Caribbean and eastern Pacific, these crews have led to the seizure of over 100,000 pounds of cocaine so far this year.

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...House-Senate Conferees Approve $22 Million for NERRTC - Date: September 29, 2005..." WebSite: Texas Engineering Extension Service http://www.teex.com/teex.cfm?pageid=teexresc&area=teex&storyid=520&templateid=23 [03OCT2005]

The final 2006 Homeland Security bill also includes $16 million added by Edwards for L-3, Waco's largest private employer, for important upgrades for two Customs and Border Protection P-3 aircraft.

The final bill is expected to be formally approved by the House and Senate next week.

Circa 2000

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...LOCKHEED MARTIN AIRCRAFT & LOGISTICS CENTERS SELECTED FOR NAVY P-3 MAINTENANCE, UPGRADE PROGRAM..." http://lmalc.external.lmco.com/lmalc/pr/062600_p3_maintenance.htm [06NOV2000]

June 26, 2000

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Lockheed Martin Aircraft & Logistics Centers' has been selected by the U.S. Navy to maintain, modify and upgrade 19 P-3 Orion aircraft for the Sustained Aircraft Recovery Program.

All work will be accomplished at the company's Greenville Aircraft Center and will include selected structural and electrical modifications, upgrades and depot level maintenance on the aircraft. Basic aircraft maintenance and core modifications are valued at approximately $23 million. Work on the program begins immediately runs through September 2002.

The P-3 is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft originally manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The Greenville Aircraft Center is currently the provider of the Navy's P-3 Phased Depot Maintenance Program, performing the installs on the P-3 Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program, and is a service provider for a variety of other Navy and U.S. Customs Service P-3 programs.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to expand our support of the Navy's P-3 community," said Daniel W. Patterson, President of Aircraft & Logistics Centers. "The contract will provide the Navy a low-risk transition program with the full backing of the P-3 Orion's original equipment manufacturer - Lockheed Martin."

Aircraft & Logistics Centers, headquartered in Greenville, S.C., is the aerospace support arm of the Technology Services Business Area of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, and is one of the leading providers of aircraft maintenance and contractor logistics support for the Department of Defense and commercial customers. The company has 8,000 employees at more than 90 locations throughout the United States and overseas.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a highly diversified global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The corporation's core businesses span space and telecommunications, electronics, information and services, aeronautics, energy and systems integration. Lockheed Martin had 1999 sales surpassing $25 billion.

Lockheed Martin Aircraft & Logistics Centers
107 Frederick Street
Greenville, S.C. 29607
Contact: David Jewell
(864) 422-6303..." http://lmalc.external.lmco.com/lmalc/pr/062600_p3_maintenance.htm[06NOV2000]

Circa 1999

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Latest U.S. Customs P-3 AEW aircraft features APS-145 radar - by Bob Harper..." http://lmasc.external.lmco.com/star/oct2199/10219fe.html [06NOV2000]

In a special display on September 15 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Customs Service presented its newest P-3 Orion Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, the first P-3 equipped with APS-145 radar provided by Lockheed Martin Ocean, Radar & Sensor Systems (OR&SS). It is the U.S. Customsí latest weapon in the war against drug smuggling.

Modification work for the new aircraft was completed at Lockheed Martin Aircraft & Logistics Centers (LMALC) Greenville, S.C. Flight testing is being finalized, and the aircraft is scheduled for delivery this month.

The P-3, built by LMAS, is a four-engine aircraft with a range of more than 4,600 miles. The plane on display in Washington, D.C. was the first of four aircraft with the APS-145 that the Customs Service has ordered from Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will patrol the southern U.S. border including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and provide wide-area surveillance, detection, and tracking.

APS-145 radar traditionally has been used on the U.S. Navy's Northrop Grumman E-2C for aircraft carrier fleet surveillance.

The APS-145 can "see" for more than 200 miles in any direction and can monitor and track 20,000 targets simultaneously. It also has built-in countermeasures in case an attempt is made to jam its function.

OR&SS began making versions of the APS radar in 1960. Current U.S. Customs P-3s have used APS-138 radar, which came into use in 1980. APS-145 radar on the E-2C began use by the Navy in the early 1990s.

The biggest advantage the APS-145 has over the APS-138 is its ability to make automated environmental processing adjustments and provide better detection over land and sea. Radar operators using the APS-138 are required to make more manual adjustments to enhance detection.

The new system, combining the radar and a new technology, open architecture computer is a quantum leap in effectiveness over existing equipment.

The unequalled "Sentinel" is the first of two new radar aircraft referred to as "Domes," being manufactured for Customs. It is the fifth AEW platform to be acquired by Customs and will be based at the serviceís Corpus Christi facility.

A sixth aircraft is currently on the production line and is scheduled for delivery by the first quarter next year. The production of two additional Dome aircraft and four "Slick" modified P-3s will follow the delivery of the sixth aircraft.

The Slicks, equipped with dual GPS navigational systems and a modified F-15 radar provide unmatched long-range interceptor capability, when working in tandem with the Dome aircraft.

The U.S. Customs P-3 AEW aircraft is recognized by experts in the field as being the most effective tool in the war against drugs. Last year, Congress authorized more than $2.7B for increased emphasis on drug interdiction for various law enforcement agencies. Included in the legislation were an additional 20 P-3 aircraft: 10 Domes and 10 Slicks. Funding for the remaining eight Dome and six Slick aircraft is pending approval in Congress. The new aircraft has been described as being "100% more capable" than present systems. http://lmasc.external.lmco.com/star/oct2199/10219fe.html [06NOV2000]

Circa 1994

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Modified P-3 Demonstrates AAW - Naval Aviation News - May - June 1994.." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1994/mj94.pdf [12NOV2004]

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Circa 1992

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Awards, Change-Of-Command, Etc. - Naval Aviation News - September-October 1992.." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1992/so92.pdf [11NOV2004]

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Circa 1985

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation September-October 1985 "...A Naval Air War On Drugs - Page 6 to 11 - Naval Aviation News - September-October 1985..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1985/so85.pdf [18OCT2004]

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Circa 1983

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Lockheed P-3AEW - Orion Hunter..." Contributed by AFCM P. J. Waeghe, Retired pjwaeghe@bellsouth.net via "Aerial Drug Wars The Story of U.S. Customs Aviation" http://www.windcanyon.com/ [06DEC2000]

Lockheed P-3AEW - Orion Hunter

The P-3 Airborne Early Warning aircraft is the centerpiece of Customs fleet. It started out as a civilian airliner in the late 1950s, and after several fatal crashes (later determined to be the result of a design flaw), and several other crashes not related to the design, the airlines abandoned this four-engine turbo-prop. The Navy, however, turned this once-shamed aircraft into an efficient all-weather, long-range, land-based antisubmarine platform. It was used for search, patrol, hunter-killer, and convoy escort operations.

In June 1983, Customs accepted the first P-3AEW from the Navy. The long range capabilities of the P-3 allow it to fly longer without refueling than any other production aircraft in the world. Currently there are five "Slicks" and four "Domes" in the fleet. Ten "Slicks" and ten "Domes" are budgeted for the year 2000/2001.

Produced by Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, it has a speed of 380 miles per hour and a range of 4,600 miles. The "Dome" version used as a long range radar detection, and sorting platform, bears a distinctive 24-foot diameter rotodome atop its fuselage, (aka "Surveillance Hat") which is coupled to an AN/ APS-138 radar system. It can generate one megawatt (1,000,000 watts) of power. It is one of the most expensive aircraft to operate in the Customs air fleet.lll

The P-3 also comes in the "Slick" version without the dome, and uses the F-15 fighter fire-control radar as its main acquisition radar, which can be slaved to the FLIR. This radar gives an accurate bearing and azimuth. In this role it is a long-range interceptor which can slip up behind the suspect aircraft and, using gyroscopic binoculars, read the "N" number. The dome can detect targets over land and water in an area encompassing 196,250 square miles per 360 degree sweep. It can remain airborne for up to 14 hours.

The P-3AEW is used to patrol the southern U.S. border, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the international waters off South America. The aircraft, through a variety of radio systems, can communicate target information to the DAICC. While some of its capabilities are classified, it has utilized a communications over-the-horizon enforcement network (COTHEN) that uses a digitized signal, long distance daylight video cameras, a 200-mile range inverse synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and infrared sensors, digital communications links, and a sophisticated capability for analyzing the emissions across the electromagnetic spectrum from a ship, aircraft, missile or ground facility. It also carries chemical detectors and power measuring devices.

The P-3AEW fleet is based at the Customs Surveillance Support Branch in Corpus Christi.

These days, all Customs tactical transmissions are encrypted. But that was not always the case. Back in the late 1970s through the early 1980s, Customs radios operated "in the clear," and ham radio operators began monitoring the anti-narcotic agencies' radio frequencies. What started as a harmless

way for people to live vicariously, soon grew into a serious issue for Customs and the other counter-narcotics agencies. As the frequencies were discovered and identified to a specific location, they were duly reported in the ham radio operators' newsletters. Not only were the frequencies reported, but the agency to whom they were assigned. This information was readily available to the drug cartels and individual drug smugglers. All they had to do was get a current copy of a newsletter and they could monitor Customs activity and, if they were in-flight, know when they were being "eyeballed" by Customs. Thes.e frequencies were published in the national magazine Popular Communications over several issues, and the titles of the articles just begged smugglers to buy a subscription: "Hear Them Chasing the Drug Smugglers!" And "Drug War Monitoring.

Circa Unknown
Can you identify the Month and or Year?

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: U. S. Customs P3 ThumbnailCameraU. S. Customs "...Dome mission at sunset..." Contributed by AFCM P. J. Waeghe, Retired pjwaeghe@bellsouth.net [24MAR2007]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Sea recce and ASW development of the L.188 Electra transport. The Orion is the current ASW aircraft of the US; attempts to replace it have failed. A downgraded version was sold to Iran. Canada purchased a version with the avionics developed for the S-3 Viking, known as 'Aurora'. Four AEW versions of the P-3 with rotating dorsal radomes are in service with the US Customs Service. Another AEW version of the P-3, known as the EP-3E, has canoe fairings under and above the fuselage..." http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/gustin_military/us/.P3ORIO00html

"U. S. Customs Service Summary Page"