KEEPING A LOOK OUT –BORDER SECURITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
By David Maxwell
The first elements of what became known as The Great Wall of China date back to seven centuries BC and, following the later rebuild during the Ming Dynasty, is estimated to extend some 8,850 km. Among its many purposes, the collection of customs duty or taxes and control of immigration/emigration was equally as important as defence. Today border security is a serious business, with razor-wire fences and electronic surveillance and fixed crossing points.
That said, the reality is that there are many countries where, due to topography, climate, history or pure economics, the border is not delineated on the ground at all, ‘protected’ by nature – deserts, mountains, rivers and lakes. However, just as physical barriers can be breached, so natural barriers overcome. The onus on any sovereign nation intent on monitoring cross-border incursion, is to detect it and respond. For much of the 20th Century, wire fences were patrolled by military or para-military forces on foot or horseback, a manpower-intensive task. The advent of TV cameras and communications links between remote installations has reduced the manpower required.
Today, sensors exist that can detect human or vehicular targets breaking through the fence or crossing unfenced open space. Their output is transmitted by landline, microwave, radio or satellite communications to a control centre, whence a response is initiated. This feature will offer an overview of the various ways technology can be harnessed to provide such detection.
No one sensor type alone is infallible and, so, various types are invariably brought together as a system. Visual imaging sensors, such as daylight TV cameras and thermal imagers for night work, allow 24 hour coverage and are usually the most numerous of surveillance sensors. However, depending on the nature of the terrain to be placed under observation, a variety of other sensors, such as radar, audio and seismic, may be deployed. For example, where the border is a vast open space – northern tundra or desert wastes – ground surveillance radar is often the first line of detection, backed-up by the visual sensors.
The insurgent raid on the Algerian gas plant in January 2013 is a typical example of the need for border surveillance, as reports suggest the raiders crossed from Mali into Algeria. The deserts of North Africa are covered by many unmarked borders, while those of the Middle East are slowly becoming delineated by a physical marker of some description – earthen berms and fences or barriers of concertina barbed- or razor-wire, backed up by day and night cameras are typical.
Following the effort to secure its northern border with Iraq in 2007, Saudi Arabia contracted the Defence and Security Systems subsidiary of the Franco-German EADS group to create a razor-wire fence and network of electronic surveillance sensors. In July 2009, the company was awarded a contract to build a high-tech security fence (with security posts, surface- and aerial monitoring facilities) along a further 9,000 km (5,600 miles) of the country’s border. The project, reportedly dubbed “MIKSA”, is due to be completed next year at a cost, according to the French magazine, Le Point, of two billion Euros (US$2.8 billion).
Another example of a Middle East border security is the Jordan Border Security Program (JBSP), initiated in April 2008 when the US Army’s Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) contracted the Command, Control and Communications Systems business unit of DRS Technologies to provide the Jordan Armed Forces with an end-to-end border security system for a portion of country’s border. The Iraqi border was reportedly the focus of this initial phase of the JBSP programme, but the border with Syria was also a concern.
The overall system will include the company’s Distant Sentry mobile and fixed surveillance towers, equipped with variety of Commercial Off-The