Blackhawk helicopters to patrol Rio Grande Valley

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has made the decision to deploy two Blackhawk helicopters to patrol the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border:

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the Blackhawk helicopters […] will be charged with patrolling the Rio Grande from Laredo to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Although the helicopters will not have weapons attached, the pilots will be armed and could shoot back if they come under fire, officials said.

Cuellar stressed that although he has long been against militarizing the Texas-Mexico border, it is a priority for the United States to protect its officers that patrol along the river.

A CBP helicopter was recently shot while it patrolled the border near Laredo:

According to federal authorities, several bullets hit the CBP helicopter as it patrolled the border near Laredo on June 5. Although CBP officers were not injured, the rounds penetrated and damaged the helicopter. Authorities said a bulletproof vest on the floor probably prevented the pilot from being struck. The incident, being investigated by the FBI, forced the pilot to make an emergency landing.

Authorities are still trying to determine why shots were fired at the helicopter. Some national media reports suggested the CBP helicopter had been monitoring a drug load being crossed along the border when the shots were fired. Laredo authorities have said it’s believed the shots were fired from Mexico.

Blackhawk helicopters have a thicker skin than the current helicopters used by CBP, making it more difficult for bullets to penetrate the exterior.