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Under the direction of the Pentagon's Northern Command, "Operation Lowrider" began in 2011 after the death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata. Read more: www.foxnews.com...
The operation is not without risk. Two U.S. surveillance planes crashed on similar missions in Colombia 10 years ago. Guerillas killed a U.S. pilot and held three Americans captive for six years. That $8.6 million operation was also undertaken by a defense contractor, Northrup-Grumman. Read more: www.foxnews.com...
The operation was initially code-named Lowrider, but officially known as the Northern Command Aerial Sensor Platform. And like so many military enterprises since 9/11, the contract was privatized: Without a bidding process, the government farmed it out to a large private defense company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, to provide the planes, pilots and crews for the classified missions.
The secret nature of the Lowrider program makes its rough outlines difficult to trace. But one document obtained by Vocativ indicates that it began with a 2011 directive from the Pentagon’s Northern Command to the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group—a secretive U.S. Air Force office also known as Big Safari. That summer, Big Safari awarded an $18 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corporation for the Northern Command Aerial Sensor Platform. The company would provide the planes, integrated with the intelligence-gathering equipment, and the crews.
Last year Republican Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania wrote to the Pentagon raising concerns about the military’s decision to award the contract to Sierra Nevada without putting it out for competitive bidding, as the law usually requires. Shuster didn’t specifically mention Mexico or refer to the Lowrider program by name, but his letter, obtained by Vocativ, alludes to an aircraft “currently operating in North America providing aerial surveillance and signals intelligence collection in support of Northern Command.”