The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has awarded $1.35 billion worth of contracts for its Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System (CAARS) to San Diego, CA-based SAIC, Billerica, MA-based American Science and Engineering and Woburn, MA-based L-3 Communications.

“CAARS is the latest effort in the department’s broader strategy to enhance our nation’s security by harnessing cutting-edge, automated technologies to better detect radiological and nuclear threats at our nation’s points of entry,” said Vayl S. Oxford, Director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. “This advanced equipment will greatly enhance our ability to detect these greater threats while improving our ability to scan greater portions of cargo in a timely, effective manner.”

The CAARS program will deliver an advanced imaging system that will automatically detect high density shielding that could be used to hide special nuclear materials and improve throughput rates for fast and effective scanning, DHS said.

CAARS is also capable of detecting contraband such as explosives and drugs. The budget supports the production and deployment of approximately 300 CAARS domestically and internationally over the next six years.

“Detection of special nuclear material is accomplished with both passive radiation portal monitors and active automated x-ray imaging,” said Oxford. “Deploying both Advanced Spectroscopic Portals and CAARS systems to work in tandem provide the nation with the capability to detect unshielded, lightly shielded and shielded materials across the threat spectrum without slowing down commerce.”

By the end of the year, DHS aims to have close to 90% of all containers entering the U.S. by land or sea checked, with close to 100% by next year.

See DHS to pilot dirty-bomb checkpoints