Bad guys beware: Border protection agents have powerful new weapon

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It is the latest high powered, high tech line of defense for protecting America's borders. Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection visited Gulfport Tuesday, showing off the latest law enforcement speed boat.

It's equipped with all the electronic bells and whistles and 1500 horsepower to chase down the bad guys. Customs and Border Protection is taking the Advanced Technology Demonstrator around the country, giving its marine interdiction agents a chance to test drive the powerful 43 footer.

Border protection agents gave us a fast ride on this next generation of interceptor vessels, smokin' the sound at 70 miles an hour.

"We're using it as a platform to test all the latest and greatest technologies. Finding out what works, what's going to keep our guys safer and enable them to do their job better to protect the borders of America," said agent Jim Smegal.

High tech electronics help agents stay ahead of the bad guys.

As we leave the harbor the electronic ball atop the vessel targets and tracks a recreational fisherman, first in real time video then thermal imaging.

"It sees in the dark, because heat is active all the time. So, we'll see body signatures, engine signatures, the heat from electronic systems," said agent Joshua Johnson.

"For example, you can see if a guy has a hand gun or a rifle in his hand, from almost a half mile off," said Smegal.

Electronic navigation and communications gear is designed to be easy to use for agents who may be in hot pursuit of illegal aliens or chasing drug smugglers.

"The radar, GPS, chart plotter, depth sounder, all of the navigation sequencing can be controlled right from the seat without somebody having to exit the seat to do anything," Johnson explained.

Speaking of seats, they too are designed with the mission in mind.  Special shock absorbers cushion the bumps and bounces at sea.

"The seats enable you to go faster, farther, with less fatigue," Smegal said.

Agents across the country are checking out the electronic advancements, test driving the vessel and offering input on this next generation of interceptor.

"The advanced concept technology demonstrator really was built to take a look at what's going on in the industry in advancements and see what is going to be applicable for our future fleet," Johnson said.

The demonstration boat is traveling around the country, allowing agents to check it out. Following Tuesday's stop in Gulfport, the interceptor is headed for Texas.

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