FBI sells its only high-altitude surveillance plane

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has listed its Cessna Citation Jet for sale on the General Services Administration (GSA) website. Interested buyers have ten days to bid on the aircraft that is sold with the Front-view infrared camera with WESCAM MX20HD sensor, according to the GSA list. Although there is no reserve price for the aircraft, a deposit of $ 100,000 is required before placing a bid for the aircraft.

The 2003 model of the Cessna Citation 560 jet carries tail number 557PG and is powered by Pratt and Whitney 535A engines. The Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) is Honeywell’s Primus 1000 and features a Garmin GTN-750 650 touchscreen navigator.

According to the aircraft information report, the owner is listed as AWS Air, LLC with an address in Manassas, Virginia. However, inquiries and requests for inspections are directed to Earl Mcewen, with an FBI.gov email.

According to surveys conducted by BuzzFeed News in 2020, the device was used in high-profile raids in 2018 and 2019, where the efforts of multiple agencies led to the arrests of gangs involved in drug trafficking, gun trade and money laundering silver in Northern California, Puerto Rico and Alabama.

Buzzfeed also reported that the plane circled Baltimore in 2015 after Freddie Gray was killed in custody and was also allegedly involved in monitoring the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC, last June.

The FBI is said to have over 120 surveillance planes registered with fictitious company names, most of them propeller machines that typically fly at around 5,000 feet (1,524 m). The Cessna is its only jet aircraft and can fly at 15,000 feet. (~ 4500 m) which makes it more difficult to spot from the ground.

The The forward-looking infrared camera with sensor WESCAM MX20HD with which the aircraft is sold is a multisensor and multispectral system. In accordance with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the system is a controlled item and, therefore, the sale of the aircraft is likely to involve the Department of State, before it can be sold in outside the United States.

It is not known what prompts the FBI to sell this plane and why it is sold with a surveillance system on board.


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