Monday, February 4, 2013

Floating eyes

We were near Deming, New Mexico when we first saw a motionless blimp in the sky.   "What the heck is that?" we wondered.  Turned out it was part of the US Air Force-financed "Tethered Aerostat Radar System" or TARS, which uses tethered high-tech blimps to look for drug runners, illegal border crossings and other illegal border activity. 

Most of the blimps used for border control are about a quarter to a third of the size of the 192-foot Goodyear Blimp.  Besides Deming, we’ve seen them near Yuma, AZ and here at Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista, AZ.  Among other high-tech equipment, the blimps have cameras that scan city-sized areas and can zoom in on objects several miles away.

The same technology has been used in the war in Afghanistan. As that war winds down and so does military funding, there's currently a discussion about who if anyone will fund the TARS border blimps and keep them in use. 
I enlarged this photo so it's grainy, but above is a TARS blimp we saw on the ground south of Yuma.  As I write this post, I can see one high in the sky over the border near Sierra Vista, AZ.  
A TARS blimp above a mountain in Yuma.

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