U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin flying two AgustaWestland AW139s as part of its fleet of medium-lift helicopters.
The agency within the U.S. Homeland Security Dept. currently flies Sikorsky Aircraft UH-60 Black Hawks, Eurocopter AS350 Astars and EC120s, and MD Helicopters MD-500s, in addition to fixed-wing aircraft. Agency officials received the helicopters July 30 at their Miami Air Marine Branch at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base.
The aircraft are to undergo test and evaluation in several different environments. Initially, they will be tested out of Homestead in a marine environment, then for cold weather adaptation in Great Falls, Mont. and Bellington, Wash. and in a desert environment in Tucson, Ariz. The testing could take a year or more. Officials said the aircraft must be able to accomplish interdiction of illegal aliens and drugs in extreme conditions.