Kentish Express Ashford & District
Border command cell’s new tech
All agencies combatting illegal Channel crossings are under the same roof for the first time, with a wide range of new tools to use.
The Home Office announced earlier this month that a new “command cell” has been established at the Dover Coastguard station.
Border Force, police, coastguard and the military staff will comprise the 20 man specialist unit, as well as drone operators.
Drones have been employed since December 2019 to surveille the Channel for dinghies, with the unit continuing to launch the Tekever AR5 fixed wing models from Lydd airport.
These models can cruise hundreds of metres in the air at 60mph, and have been used to great effect alongside the Ministry of Defence’s Watchkeeper drone to tackle human trafficking efforts.
The new command cell - led by clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney - are also using the most modern radar technology to more accurately pinpoint small boats and get a live position.
A direct line of communication with French authorities was also established as part of the so-called ‘Altair’ operation which was revealed last month.
Perhaps the most James Bondlike gadget being trialled for the operation is an unmanned highspeed military boat.
The 41-feet-long MADFOX craft - capable of reaching 40 knots or 46mph - has been undergoing sea tests in recent days, and is outfitted with radar and camera systems.
It will be controllable by a crew stationed at the Dover command cell.