Mark Muckenfuss
August 26, 2013

For 25 years, one of the nerve centers for the nation’s airspace has been in Riverside’s backyard. The Air and Marine Operations Center at March Air Reserve Base tracks planes flying in and out of the country as well as domestic flights.

Now, officials there have set their sights on the sea.

The center, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, is a mass of computer banks reminiscent of NASA’s Mission Control. An 8-by-45-foot, high-definition television screen is spread across its front wall. The center can track as many as 50,000 aircraft at any moment.

It’s basically a clearing house for radar and intelligence information, working with — and supplying information to — a host of security and law enforcement agencies. Officials say the center has reduced illegal cross-border flights from thousands per year in the mid-1980s to a handful. Initially, the focus was on drug trafficking. The surveillance has expanded over the years to include human trafficking, the smuggling of counterfeit products, and terrorist activities.

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