A Dutch multinational military and aerospace company whose helicopters are used to monitor the US-Mexico border.
Airbus SE, headquartered in Leiden, Netherlands, is a multinational military and aerospace corporation that specializes in commercial and military aircraft. Its 2020 revenue was €49.9 billion (about $58 billion), 21% of which came from its Defence and Space segment, which makes warplanes and missile systems, and another 12% from its Helicopters segment, which makes both civil and military helicopters.
Between 2008 and 2021, the U.S. federal government awarded Airbus contracts worth over $6.5 billion. 77% of this amount was in contracts with the Department of Defense, and 21% was with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
US-Mexico Border Monitoring
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses Airbus helicopters as part of its Air and Marine Operations (AMO) fleet. In 2019 alone, CBP's air and marine enforcement resulted in 1,575 arrests and 52,036 apprehensions of immigrants. According to Airbus, it has provided aircraft for U.S. border enforcement operations since the 1980s. Between 2004 and 2021, CBP awarded Airbus contracts worth a combined $222 million.
CBP uses the Airbus AS350/H125 Light Enforcement Helicopter (LEH) for "aerial patrol and surveillance of stationary or moving targets," especially in metropolitan areas. These helicopters are equipped with electro-optical (day) and infrared (night) sensors. Airbus has provided CBP with more than 100 helicopters from this series over the years, but in 2020 started providing new and improved H125 helicopters, "uniquely configured" for CBP. Airbus describes the new model as "one of the most advanced, high-tech law enforcement helicopters ever developed."
CBP uses the smaller Airbus EC120 helicopter as a "highly-effective aerial surveillance platform in the border desert areas where terrain can be difficult to traverse on foot." CBP often uses it to assist ground agents in detecting traces left behind by people crossing the desert.
In addition to their intended use of patrolling U.S. borders, CBP has used its aircraft fleet to assist local law enforcement agencies, including in monitoring civilian protests. Out of 92,800 hours of flight time logged by CBP's Air and Marine Operations during 2020, 8,000 hours were spent responding to requests for assistance from law enforcement agencies around the country.
In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes, and drones over at least 15 U.S. cities during protests over the murder of George Floyd. These aircraft logged at least 270 hours of surveillance. Specifically, a CBP Airbus helicopter spent more than an hour flying over Dayton, Ohio, during a Black Lives Matter protest, providing aerial support to the local police department.
In June 2021, CBP sent an Airbus helicopter to Park Rapids, Minnesota, to assist local law enforcement in monitoring a protest against the construction of an oil pipeline. The low-flying helicopter was documented to have repeatedly "rotor washed" protestors with dust and debris for extended periods of time, while recording the protest with a camera.