On July 18th, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton intercepted a narco sub about 200 miles south of Mexico. On board the homemade semi-submersible were 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth almost a quarter of a billion dollars. Yes, billion, with a B. The Coast Guard pulled 12,000 pounds out of the turquoise-colored sub before it sank to the seafloor
Over the last decade and a half, submarines have been increasingly popular for drug running. They range widely in capability and complexity, from semi-submersible vehicles with very low radar signatures, to fully submersible ones. They are largely built under the jungle canopy, away from the prying eyes of aerial and satellite surveillance, and are then launched on the coastline after being stuffed with drugs and sent north.
The sub caught on the 18th was classed as a “Blue Semi-Submersible” which has been a cartel favorite for years. It runs right below the waterline, with just its exhaust, air stack and tiny wheel house sticking out up from the waterline.
According to the NyTimes.com, these subs can cost well over $1M to build and are equipped with a valve in their hull that can be actuated so that the ship can be quickly flooded. This way, if the mission is compromised, the sub and its contents can be sunk while the crew bobs in the water waiting to be plucked out by the Coast Guard.
The USCG has steadily increased its technological capabilities and the deadliness of its armament when it comes to intercepting drug running in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, even working with military surveillance aircraft and nuclear fast attack submarines to hunt for targets. It’s a move that has been met with great support by some and great disdain by others who oppose what can seem to be an ever failing drug war.
Regardless of which side you stand on, the July 18th bust is remarkable in that it is said to be the Coast Guard’s largest bust of its kind. A quarter of a billion dollar loss is a large one, even for the cartels.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.