MIAMI (CBSMiami)- In the latest twist in the war against drugs, smugglers have turned to stealth techniques to sneak massive amounts of drugs into the US, by hiding the cargo beneath the waves where it’s hard to spot. But, for the second time in just a few months, the Coast Guard has spotted the smugglers, seized their cargo, and watched as their drug sub sank to the bottom of the sea.
The cutter Mohawk, based in Key West, stopped the drug sub at sea before it could deliver a cargo of cocaine to the United States. The self-powered sub, the latest wrinkle in drug smuggling, sank as the Coast Guard was trying to capture it, but not before crew members were able to seize a haul of cocaine.
The drug sub, technically a semi-submersible, was spotted by a Coast Guard plane September 17th in the western Caribbean, and the Coast Guard cutter Mohawk was guided to the craft. While part of the drug sub can be seen on the surface, the low profile makes them difficult to spot.
Using the helicopter and a pursuit boat, crew from the cutter were able to arrest the smugglers and grab some of the cargo, but could not stop the submersible from sinking.
Frustrated by drug fighting success in other arenas, smugglers have turned to the stealthy subs in an effort to deliver their cargo undetected by normal drug-fighting efforts.
Coast Guard officials say the subs are built in South American jungles, and is generally under 100 feet long. With a crew of up to 5, the semi-submersible carries up to 10 tons of drugs for up to 5 thousand miles, greater than the distance from Miami to Africa. The crafts are hard to spot, carry huge amounts of drugs, and are a growing nightmare for those waging the war on drugs.
The boats are deigned to sink easily if spotted by law enforcement, to keep the drugs from being captured.
In the past, the crafts have been mostly used in the Pacific. Finding them in the Caribbean is something new. The first was captured July 13th in the western Caribbean.
“It’s a serious operational challenge for the cutter fleet,” said Cmdr. Mark Fedor of the Mohawk. “They are a significant threat to our nation and our friends throughout Central and South America because they can smuggle massive amounts of narcotics as well as other illicit goods or people.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, and partner nation aircraft and vessel crews work together to conduct counter drug patrols in the Caribbean.
“This is a great example of how our cutters and people stop threats to the United States long before those threats reach our shores,” said Rear Adm. Bill Baumgartner, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District in Miami.