Cudjoe Key TARS

The TARS site at Cudjoe Key, Florida, not too far from the naval station in Key West, operates two TARS blimps, out of adjacent facilities. This is one of eight or so Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) program sites, from Arizona to Florida, operated by the federal government to monitor the southern US border. At each site an unmanned blimp is held aloft, two miles up, tethered by a nylon cord spooled in a winch. Most TARS sites use the 420K blimp, a 208-foot-long balloon, filled with 420,000 cubic feet of helium, made by TCOM and Lockheed. Inside the blimp is more than a ton of radar equipment, powered by a diesel generator, capable of seeing any aircraft or boat, as small as an ultralight, within 200 miles. Radar data is transmitted wirelessly, and uploaded to a Defense Department data cloud. It is processed and analyzed in real time at the Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC) at March Air Reserve Base, in Riverside, California. Cudjoe Key was the first TARS site developed by the government. It opened in 1980, operated by the Air Force. One blimp has the usual radar platform. The other has transmission gear, used to broadcast US government radio and television programs aimed at Cuba.