ALBUQUERQUE — Black Hawk helicopters will start flights over a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border including New Mexico and Texas for border enforcement and search and rescue operations, federal border agency officials said.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations confirmed the U.S. Army is transferring three Black Hawk helicopters to the El Paso Air Branch to replace the older helicopters being retired and sold, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The Air Branch is responsible for a large Southwestern region including West Texas and all of New Mexico and Oklahoma and the helicopters can support federal, state and local partners in those states, officials said.

The Black Hawk can fly faster, remain in the air longer and carry more people, systems and cargo in a region home to more than 2.5 million people, El Paso Air Branch officials said.

Air and Marine Operations in El Paso have not flown a Black Hawk in the region since 2008, federal officials said.

Some organizations have opposed the addition saying it allows the militarization of the Border Patrol.

The first helicopter was delivered in November, the second one is expected to arrive in the spring and the third one is scheduled for next year, officials said.

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