NEAR MARFA, Texas (Border Report) — While traveling from the Marfa area to Alpine, Texas on Friday evening, our BorderReport.com team spotted a blimp used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to monitor illegal immigration.
According to a recently published article on CBP’s website, this is one of eight blimps used in the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, or TARS. These are tied to the ground and have the ability to float up and down.
“TARS is like a low-flying satellite system, but cheaper to launch and operate,” Richard Booth, director of domain operations and integration for CBP’s Office of Air and Marine explained in the article.
According to CBP, no one mans the balloons. They serve as radars that allow agents to boost their surveillance range. Each TARS balloon contains a radar weighing about 2,200 pounds, capable of detecting aircraft at a range of 200 miles, according to CBP.
Border officials also say the balloons also serve as a visual deterrent to illegal activity both by air and ground.
MISSION, TX - JULY 25: A helicopter from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), patrols past a CBP Aerostat surveillance blimp near the U.S.-Mexico border on July 25, 2014 near Mission, Texas. The CBP has been adding additional blimps along the border, increasing their surveillance capabilities on illegal crossings. Tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied minors have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas' Rio Grande Valley has become the epicenter of the latest immigrant crisis, as more Central Americans have crossed illegally from Mexico into that sector than any other stretch of the America's 1,933 mile border with Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
ROMA, TX - AUGUST 16: A U.S. Border Patrol-operated Aerostat surveilance blimp awaits takeoff to overwatch the U.S.-Mexico border on August 16, 2016 at Roma, Texas. Border security has become a main issue in the U.S. Presidential campaign, as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised to build a wall, at Mexico's expense to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - FEBRUARY 21: An Aerostat blimp operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), flies tethered over the U.S.-Mexico border on February 21, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The blimps locates high above the border have high-definition cameras which allow Border Patrol agents to spot undocumented immigrants and smugglers crossing illegally from Mexico into Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)