Karen is really good at spotting them during her night watches. What looks like a very bright star to a casual glance, until you notice it “twinkles” in a strange way. Then you get the binoculars and you can see a steady white light, and a green and red light that flash alternately. It’s an aircraft, but a strange one. It doesn’t move. And wherever you find one, there are more. Always evenly spaced out in a line across the sky. These are obviously large surveillance drones, but it is very difficult to find any information about them.
It used to be that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operated a chain of large tethered blimps from Puerto Rico to Texas with downward looking radar to monitor boats and low flying aircraft that might be involved in smuggling drugs or people. A few years ago, those were decommissioned. A few minutes of searching and I can not find any announcements or information about what replaced that capability. The official answer from CBP is that there is no replacement for the radar monitoring capabilities of discontinued tethered blimp radar system. Color me skeptical.
The blimp system itself was ridiculously expensive to operate, and had a really low availability. Many sites had these radars in the air less than 40% of the time. The logic from the people who were running it was that it was still a deterrent, because the bad guys wouldn’t ever know if it was operating or not. This is all kinds of stupid, since anybody who had a phone within 50 miles of the blimp’s location could simply look up in the sky and call ahead to let their fellow bad guys know the blimp’s operational status: “Hey, Juan! The blimp’s down! Get that plane with the cocaine in the air NOW!”
I am quite sure that the Bahamas, Haiti, and the BVI do not have the resources–either alone or together–to put up a picket line of drones across the Caribbean every night. A short review of the DHS budget doesn’t show a line item for drone operations at all.
A couple of possibilities. Either the drone program is buried in the DHS budget in a way designed to deliberately obfuscate it, or the hardware and operating budget are actually buried in the Pentagon’s budget, and I am not even going to TRY to find it there.
I can sort of understand why “they” might want to keep the capabilities of the system under wraps, but it makes no sense at all to pretend it doesn’t exist when anybody with eyes can go out and see it.
If anybody has more information I’d love to hear it…
And Meanwhile, Onboard Harmonie…
We have bounced back and forth from Culebra to the main island of Puerto Rico in the last week and a half or so. Getting stuff done, provisioning, and receiving packages. If all goes according to plan, this will be Harmonie’s last USA stop for some time.
The expectation is that we leave here tomorrow morning to head to Sint Maarten, one of the commercial hubs of the Eastern Caribbean. We will spend a week to 10 days there, and then head to Martinique, and then on to Grenada.