The low hum of a high flying UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) can also be heard under starry skies. They patrol the border about 20 miles south of us-as the crow flies. Ft. Huachuca houses the largest UAV training facility in the world, a 25,000 sq. ft. space with 10 simulators. These high-tech drones appropriately labeled the "Predator" and the "Shadow" have become crucial in our defense here and abroad.
The single constant in the daytime is the affectionately known as the "Blimp", but it's really an aerostat, or officially known as Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS). Housed at the base of the Huachuca Mountains near Brown Canyon, this white blimp-shaped aircraft is tethered 10,000 - 15,000 feet in sky unless it's particularly windy. It's job is to monitor the border (there's a theme here) for low-flying planes and other activity. Drug runners are fond of our section of the border and use all manner of means to get their product to market in the U.S.
The aerostat is a large fabric envelope filled with helium and air. The material is extremely lightweight and can handily withstand abuse by the elements. It sports a 400 hertz on board generator for power and can go as high as 25,000 feet. It has a surveillance range of 200 nautical miles. Under the command of the U.S. Air Force, these eyes in the sky can be found in several places along the U.S., Mexico border as well as Florida and parts of the Caribbean. They're all part of the Department of Defense's Counterdrug Program. For those who may want more technical information, check out the Air Force link http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3507.
|High in the Sky|
The local "blimp" did have a disastrous wind encounter a little over a year ago. It wasn't lowered quickly enough during a windy day and ended up strewn through a neighborhood in Sierra Vista. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was some property damage and it was fatal event for the aerostat. The new one seems to be fairing well and keeps its daily watch. While we haven't observed any UFOs in the neighborhood, the local known flying objects keep us watching the skies day and night.