US authorities gained control of a "narco-submarine" filled with eight tons of cocaine.
In a joint operation, the US Navy, US Coast Guard, and assets from the Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, intercepted a "narco-submarine" filled with more than 16,870 pounds of cocaine off the coast of El Salvador.
|Sub with the 8 Tons|
On July 18, a Coast Guard cutter commandeered a self-propelled, semisubmersible vessel carrying 274 bales of cocaine weighing more than eight tons, according to a press release from US Customs and Border Patrol.
The four individuals found with the illicit contraband were detained by US authorities.
Mexican and South American drug cartels and their broader networks are entirely dependent on an ability to get their product onto US soil. And if there's one thing that these organizations are good at, it's changing their operating methods in order to stay one step ahead of the game.
As the United States, Mexico, and Colombia intensified their war on drugs throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s, the cartels had to redesign various ways that they could smuggle cocaine into the US. With billions of dollars in annual revenue at stake, no idea for getting drugs into the US buyers was considered too outlandish.
But the ultimate in high-risk, high-reward smuggling is the "narco submarine," homemade subs that can bring thousands of pounds of product to the US at once.
According to a US Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) report on narco submarines citing Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, 80% of drugs smuggled into the US in 2012 came from maritime routes. And 30% of the drugs that arrived in the US by sea were conducted via narco submarines. Like narco tanks, narco submarines show how cartels have mastered do-it-yourself engineering. Even so, around one in four of the vessels are interdicted.
There are four broad categories of vessel that fall under the narco submarine label: low-profile vessels, semi-submersibles, submersibles, and towed narco "torpedoes."
Similar to a submarine, "narco-subs" are custom-built vessels used by traffickers to move large amounts of drugs. The first narco-sub was detected in 1993 and was built from wood and fiberglass, and could not submerge, and could only travel at 10 mph.
The majority of narco submarines discovered have been LPVs, (low profile vessels) perhaps because cartels find them easier to construct and operate than fully submersible vessels, they can transport a cargo of up to 10 Tons.
A few submersibles have been found over the years, and they're impressive.
The largest was a 100-foot long, GPS-equipped craft that could dive to 30 feet and transport upwards of 200 tons of drugs at a time, according to Colombian authorities.
Narco torpedoes are the least technologically advanced submersible. These empty canisters are designed to be dragged behind a camouflaged ship. In the event of detection, the tow-ship can drop the torpedo which then activates a homing signal for later pick-up.