Authorities first implemented the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) in the southeast region near Florida and the Caribbean, which utilized tethered aerostat systems that carried advanced radar payloads to provide the U.S. Coast Guard with persistent, long-range surveillance to identify and interdict surface vessels and low-flying aircraft. To monitor the inland border, U.S. Customs Service implemented a TARS aerostat first at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. After a successful initial deployment, TARS expanded its operational sites to include additional locations along the Southwest border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana in addition to the sites in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Initially, TARS deployed aerostats built by another manufacturer, but due to excessive helium leakage, these craft were unable to maintain an operational altitude for the expected duration. As a result, the U.S. Government turned to trusted partner TCOM, the global leader in reliable persistent surveillance solutions to deliver 71M strategic class aerostat systems that could outlast and outperform all competitors. By the early 1990’s, TARS relied heavily on TCOM’s 71M LASS (Low-Altitude Surveillance System) aerostats with AN/TPS-63 surveillance radar payloads. With a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m), and surveillance radar range of 370 km (200 nm), TCOM’s 71M tethered aerostats provided U.S. Coast Guard and Customs authorities with the range and reliability they needed to enforce border security.