SAN ANGELO, TX — The City and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (CBPAMO) are about to embark upon a $1.1 million upgrade at Mathis Field to increase drone activity here.
CBPAMO’s MQ-9 Predator B drone surveillance of the U.S.-Mexico border has been based at Mathis Field since early 2018. The CBP facilities at the north end of the airport have been converted almost exclusively to operate the Unmanned Aerospace Vehicle, or UAS. We detailed the mission and explained “How San Angelo Sits in the Catbird Seat for the Drug War on the Mexico Border” in an exclusive news article in April 2018.
Many of the drone pilots here are in extended temporary duty assignments from Corpus Christi. Most of them are retired or recently separated naval aviators with experience in the P-3 Orion weapons system. The extended TDY assignments have been good for the local motels and hotels here.
The Predator B drones are used for primarily drug interdiction on the border. A typical mission can last 12 to 20 hours. To the east of Mathis field is a large-diameter circular area or restricted airspace where the Predator climbs to or descends from operational altitudes. Many have seen the gray rear-turboprop drones takeoff and land here. An MQ-9 crashed at Mathis almost a year ago. No one was injured except the unmanned UAS.
Tuesday, the San Angelo City Council unanimously authorized spending $1.1 million from the ½-cent sales tax revenue fund for infrastructure improvements to the CBPAMO facilities. Included in the plan is to pave 6,900 square yards of tarmac with 7-inch concrete. Improved drainage and a metal building will also be constructed.
The citizen-run City of San Angelo Development Corporation, or COSA-DC, unanimously approved appropriating the funds during its meeting in late June. Tuesday, council ratified that decision.