The Border Patrol earlier this month told Congress that its new fixed surveillance tower deployment in a portion of Arizona meets its operational requirements, a milestone that permits Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to begin deploying the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) system in another area of the southwest border.

The first IFT deployment occurred last year in Nogales, Ariz., and was followed by limited user testing before the Border Patrol began to operate its new surveillance network ahead of the recent certification. CBP said the certification measure the Border Patrol “conditionally accepts IFTs.”

Remote Video Surveillance Systems used by CBP to track illegal border crossers. Photo: CBP
Remote Video Surveillance Systems used by CBP to track illegal border crossers. IFTs include radar systems. Photo: CBP

The Border Patrol on March 1 notified congressional appropriations committees of the certification.

Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello said in a statement that the certification means the “IFT program meets its operational requirements. This decision is based on  a review of test results and agent feedback from the IFT deployment in Nogales. Test results and agent feedback confirm that the IFT system adds surveillance capability, increasing situational awareness and officer safety.”

CBP is now breaking ground on the next IFT deployment, which will be in the Douglas, Ariz., area of operations. Additional deployments will be based on the Border Patrol’s needs.

A Texas-based division of Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT] is the prime contractor for IFT.

The IFT system detects and identifies items of interest, giving Border Patrol agents greater awareness of potential illegal activity in an area of operations. Towers are equipped with radar, electro-optical and infrared surveillance cameras, related communications and power generation equipment to provide round-the-clock surveillance.

The IFT program grew out of the terminated SBInet program, which planned to string fixed surveillance towers along the southwest border. In the wake of SBInet’s termination, CBP opted to pare back the areas it would deploy fixed tower systems to and instead is deploying a mix of surveillance assets to include various mobile systems and in some cases tower-mounted camera systems.