Deming Aerostat Radar Site
Deming Aerostat Radar Site (1988-Active) - Established in 1988 as a U.S. Customs Service radar station located near Deming, Luna County, New Mexico. The site provides radar detection and monitoring of low-altitude aircraft and surface vehicles along the US-Mexico border from a tethered aerostat balloon. Now an active part of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) with a TARS ID of B-42.
U.S. Customs Service (1988-1992)
The Deming site preparation began in June 1988 and the operational site was dedicated on 3 Dec 1988 in a public ceremony. The Deming Aerostat Radar Site was one of three operated and maintained by Westinghouse Co. (TCOM) contractors to the U.S. Customs Service. Three other sites were operated and maintained by contractor General Electric Company. The project was code-named SOWRBALL for Southwest Radar Balloon and it fed radar data to the U.S. Customs West Coast command center at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. Initial equipment included the TPS-63 search radar.
U.S. Air Force (USAF) (1992-2013)
By 1992 the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs were operating three separate Aerostat systems. In 1992 Congress mandated that DoD consolidate and manage the separate programs. The Air Force was designated as the executive agent. The Air Force made the 4700th Operations Support Squadron (OSS), a component of the Air Combat Command (ACC), responsible for the management of the system. The resulting system became known as the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS).
Immediate problems emerged as USAF accepted the turnover of sites from other agencies. The newly acquired systems had not gone through the normal acquisition process and proper support was not in place. Provisioning problems caused five TARS sites to be nonoperational for up to 28 months. Telephone Hot Line complaints from personnel resulted in a 1994 Department of Defense Inspector General Audit Report that documented the issues and provided guidance for getting the system on track. Issues with the General Electric aerostats dictated a contracting effort to replace the three existing systems with a single standard configuration.
A 30 Dec 1995 NORAD configuration document shows the Deming TARS site as one of the six border TARS sites furnishing radar data to the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) direction center at McChord AFB in Washington State. It was shown with a TARS ID of B-42.
The first site to be transitioned was the Deming Site. The Deming Aerostat had been damaged by bad weather (a dust Devil by some accounts) in Oct 1999. It was decided to upgrade Deming instead of repairing the old balloon the update was scheduled to be completed on 25 Aug 2000. The Deming site was said to employ some 29 people in 1999. The other two sites were the Yuma and the Fort Huachuca.
In March 2002 Lockheed Martin announced they had been awarded a $70 million contract to supply USAF Aerostat sites with their updated L-88(V)3 radar. Lockheed Martin was to build, install, test, and support the L-88(V)3 radar system which included the airborne payload, the telemetry system, and radar control/monitoring console.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) (2013-Present)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) assumed responsibility for the TARS program from USAF on 1 Jul 2013, including official program and contract management. The program then consisted of eight TARS aerostat sites with six along the Southwest Border (Yuma and Ft Huachuca, Ariz.; Deming, N.M.; Marfa, Eagle Pass, and Rio Grande City, Texas) and additional sites in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico.
Visited: 28 Oct 2019