By Merv Brokke, AMRDECAugust 21, 2009
The two members of the official party exchanged handshakes and passed the log book and keys between them. This moment signified the official transfer of a UH-60M from the Utility Helicopter Project Office to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.
The delivery marked the first UH-60M aircraft to enter service for the CBP which currently utilizes UH-60A aircraft to protect this nation's borders. The CBP will take delivery of four UH-60M aircraft by July 2010.
This state-of-the-art helicopter will allow the CBP to modernize its rotary wing fleet and better achieve its agency mission requirements. The aircraft will be used to provide mobility and communication for CBP agents along the United States borders and between official ports of entry.
The host for this ceremony, Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, is the Army manager for the Apache helicopter, Cargo Helicopter, Utility Helicopter, Unmanned Aircraft System, Armed Scout Helicopter, and Aviation Systems programs. He is the responsible management official who provides overall direction and guidance for the development, acquisition, testing systems integration, product improvement and fielding of assigned programs.
This ceremony was a symbol of partnership and teamwork in an effort to improve U.S. security.
"This is about partnership; in order to be able to provide this great capability, this great aircraft, to our partners in the Department of Homeland Security," Crosby said. "What enabled that to happen is a partnership within the Army, the Army pulling together with our brothers in AMCOM and RDECOM to procure this aircraft and to modify it to meet the requirements that our Department of Homeland Security so validly needs to execute the tough, very, very difficult mission."
Handing over the log book and keys to the newest Black Hawk was difficult for Crosby the aviator.
"This is the first of four M-configuration aircraft. Great capability. I'm jealous of you guys flying it out in Arizona. I wish I could go with you," Crosby said.
Accepting the aircraft was John Stanton, executive director, National Air Security Operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of CBP Air and Marine.
The CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security's largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S.
The mission of the CBP Office of Air and Marine, the world's largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization, is to protect the American people and nation's critical infrastructure through the coordinated use of integrated air and marine forces to detect, interdict and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs and other contraband toward or across the borders of the United States.
"This is a fantastic day in the Department of Homeland Security and for us in the Office of Air and Marine; to accept a brand new, brand spanking new, Black Hawk and a Mike model no less; glass cockpit and everything," Stanton said.
The relationship between the Army and Homeland Security has been ongoing for a quarter of a century.
To illustrate this, Stanton told the story of one Black Hawk that was flown during Operation Urgent Fury in 1983. The Black Hawk crashed at sea, was hoisted out, "hosed off, painted black, it's got a gold strip on it, and its name is 423 and it's in Tucson -- still today," he said.
"This is an awesome platform. We will use this every day to protect America from our enemies both foreign and domestic," said Stanton. "We are responsible for the borders and we have a lot of internal missions as well that we use these kinds of platforms both in humanitarian roles such as supporting FEMA and also in our border security roles to keep bad people and bad things out."
Built by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, with an improved airframe, avionics and propulsion system, the UH-60M helicopter is the latest and most modern in a series of Black Hawk helicopter variants.
The Utility Helicopter Project Office is teaming with the Prototype Integration Facility to integrate Customs and Border Protection mission-specific equipment into the UH-60 L/M model aircraft. The PIF is responsible for the management, design, fabrication, integration and installation of mission kits to include navigation, communication, emergency and environmental controls. In addition, the PIF will team with the Aviation Engineering Directorate to obtain an airworthiness release for these aircraft.