WASHINGTON, USA — Between February 27 and March 22, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) P-3 aircrews of the National Air Security Operations Centers (NASOC) partnered with federal and international authorities to disrupt four smuggling attempts in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and seized a combined four tons of cocaine, denying narcotics traffickers approximately $152 million in illicit proceeds.
The following events occurred in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of US Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Counter-Narcotics Operations:
- On February 27, a P-3 Long Range Tracker crew on patrol assumed monitoring of a suspicious 40-foot go-fast vessel. The aircrew guided in US Coast Guard small boat and helicopter crews for interdiction. Coast Guard Cutter Bear crew members apprehended three people and seized 881 pounds of cocaine and 12 pounds of marijuana.
- On March 1, a P-3 Airborne Early Warning crew assumed tracking of a suspect vessel from a US Navy P-8 aircrew and guided in a responding Coast Guard Cutter Munro team. The Airborne Early Warning crew handed off monitoring to a P-3 Long Range Tracker crew who vectored in a small boat team from one Cutter, and a helicopter from a second Cutter. Coast Guard teams apprehended four suspected drug smugglers and seized 3,770 pounds of cocaine.
- On March 9, while on patrol in the Pacific, AMO P-3 Long Range Tracker crews detected and tracked a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel. The Coast Guard Cutter Munro small boat crew and a Coast Guard helicopter intercepted the suspect vessel, detaining three suspected drug smugglers and seizing 1,486 pounds of cocaine.
- On March 21, a P-3 Airborne Early Warning crew detected and monitored a suspicious 50-foot vessel. The vessel’s crew began to throw suspected contraband overboard. The P-3 aircrew guided in Canadian Navy and US Coast Guard crews from the Coast Guard Cutter Forward and a Canadian Naval vessel which located the debris field where 29 bales of suspected contraband were recovered and continued to pursue the suspect vessel. US Coast Guard teams detained three suspected drug smugglers and seized 1,918 pounds of cocaine.
NASOC P-3 crew capabilities to detect and monitor smuggling activity over vast oceanic waters continue to prove essential to law enforcement in support of SOUTHCOM Counter Narcotics Operations. On April 1, 2020, SOUTHCOM began what was then known as Enhanced Counter-Narcotics Operations in the Western Hemisphere to increase the disruption of drugs. This counter Transnational Criminal Organizations/counter-narcotics operational approach, which has become enduring, supports our objectives to degrade the capabilities of Transnational Criminal Organizations and save lives.
With our increased presence, we have bolstered support to US and partner nation law enforcement by sharing information and intelligence to help expand target packages. Since then, our key partners have been involved in over 60 percent of drug disruptions since April 2020 (up from 50% in 2019). By strengthening partnerships, we counter threats together.
AMO has two P-3 NASOCs located in Jacksonville, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas. These P-3 aircraft operate throughout North, Central and South America in defense of the borders of the United States and to prevent attempts to smuggle persons or contraband.
AMO safeguards our nation by anticipating and confronting security threats through our aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities, and partnerships at the border and beyond. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, AMO serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.
In Fiscal Year 2020, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the seizure or disruption of 194,220 pounds of cocaine, 278,492 pounds of marijuana, 15,985 pounds of methamphetamine, 952 weapons and $51.5 million; 1,066 arrests; and 47,872 apprehensions of individuals.