US Customs gets kill-droids for Caribbean

Booze cruise bloodbath likely as excise feds tool up

The US Customs service has announced plans to acquire a fleet of five tonne flying death droids, to supplement its already terrifying arsenal of all-seeing "Eye of Sauron" Wi-Fi radar towers, handheld puke rayguns, and airport mind-probes.

Flight International reported on Saturday that the American bag-rummagers would acquire two "Predator-B" robot aircraft. The Predator-B is already in service with the US Air Force, under the perhaps more accurate name "Reaper".

The Reaper is designated as an "unmanned hunter/killer system". It can lift almost two tonnes of ordnance - which can mean up to 14 Hellfire missiles, each capable of blasting a booze-cruise minibus full of illicit cheap plonk to wreckage.

To be fair, there are no indications that US Customs plans to take any such firm line with any huddled masses, recreational-chemicals importers, etc. It's probably more interested in using its new Predator-Bs as an eye in the sky. Reaper radars can scan 60 square km each minute, picking out any moving object larger than a metre. Moving targets can then get a closer stare at 10cm resolution, or be imaged using the "multi-spectral" scopes. That could make life very hard for would-be Americans south of the Mexican border.

And the Customs lads have plans for the Caribbean, as well. They intend to trial a maritime Predator, able to sweep the sea for Miami Vice style speedboats.

Once the smugglers, terrorists, or general bad people have been fingered robotically from on high, ordinary customs or coastguard operatives can step in and snap the bracelets on them, perhaps after a judicious puke-raying.

All this might seem a bit extreme for common or garden border bag-rummagers and booze'n'cig-duties folk, but the US Customs is different. CBP Air and Marine has over 500 pilots and 250 aircraft - "the largest federal law enforcement air force in the world", as its chief proudly notes - as well as more than 200 vessels. The American Customs boys could probably take on a small country on their own.

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