Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday said it has awarded a division of Elbit Systems of America a potential $145.3 million contract to deploy a series of fixed surveillance towers along stretches of Arizona’s border with Mexico to combat illegal migration and drug trafficking.

CBP awarded the eight-year, six-month Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) contract to EFW, Inc., which is part of Elbit Systems of America, which is the United States-based division of Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT]. DHS Logo DHS

In a post, CBP said the initial site installation will be within Arizona. If the government accepts the initial Area of Responsibility, additional contract options may be awarded for additional sites in Arizona within the ceiling value of the award.

Some of the companies that were also competing for the IFT award include Boeing [BA], General Dynamics [GD], Lockheed Martin [LMT], Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon [RTN].

Depending on the particular area of responsibility, the IFT systems are expected to consist of a number of surveillance towers equipped with day/night cameras and radar, and communications towers to relay sensor data back to Border Patrol sector posts where a common operating picture for command and control in an area of responsibility is maintained.

The IFT program grew out of CBP’s cancellation several years ago of the former Secure Border Initiative Network, which was being developed and deployed by Boeing. The company did deploy fixed sensor towers along two stretches of border in Arizona and the Border Patrol has been operating with them effectively.

Nonetheless, various technology issues combined with program delays caused then Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to terminate SBInet in favor of a border security technology approach that favored a wider array of technology assets, including mobile surveillance systems, portable systems, and other sensors to give CBP a more flexible set of tools to meet surveillance requirements along different stretches of the nation’s southwest border.

In a statement yesterday, Boeing said it is “extremely disappointed” about the IFT contract award to a competitor, adding that “We’re proud to have provided the only proven system like IFT that’s been operational for the past four years. We remain committed to our U.S. Border Patrol customer.”