USS Ingraham (FFG 61) with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 Detachment 2 and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) personnel disrupted a shipment of cocaine estimated to be more than 300 kilograms in the 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility July 3.
Ingraham, working with allied forces and partner nation law enforcement, successfully tracked and intercepted a go-fast in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 115 miles southwest of the Panama/Colombia border. The panga was fitted with two outboard motors, capable of speeds of over 30 knots.
“The common denominators in successful interdictions like this are excellent inter-agency support, a proactive watch team that develops an effective end-game strategy and a crew that maintains their tactical proficiency and equipment at an optimal level,” said the Ingramam’s tactical action officer during the initial pursuit of the panga.
Upon detection of one of Ingraham’s SH-60B Seahawks, the crew of the panga began throwing narcotics overboard. The panga later stopped after several rounds of warning shots and disabling fire into the the panga’s engines by a Coast Guard marksman aboard one of Ingraham’s embarked helicopters
Ingraham’s rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was able to recover several of the jettisoned bales totaling approximately 36 kilograms. It is estimated that more than 300 additional kilograms sank. The U.S. Coast Guard LEDET embarked the panga, apprehended three suspected smugglers and conducted a search of the craft.
Ingraham has disrupted a total of approximately 5,500 kilograms of cocaine during her deployment. This is her third successful interdiction since arriving in 4th Fleet in support of Operation Martillo. Her first interdiction was the seizure of a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in May. The second was the seizure of a fishing vessel in June.
Under the international counter illicit trafficking initiative called Operation Martillo. U.S. military, Coast Guard, law enforcement agencies and regional partner nation law enforcement agencies patrol the waters in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis in an effort to detect, monitor and interdict illicit traffickers.
During at-sea busts in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by U.S. military or law enforcement aircraft or vessels. The actual interdictions – boarding, search, seizures and arrests – are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guard LEDETs or partner nation law enforcement agencies.
U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific occurs under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California.
Operation Martillo (Hammer) includes the participation of 14 nations that are working together to counter trans-national organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Joint Interagency Task Force South, a National Task Force under U.S. Southern Command, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multi-national law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of these illicit traffickers.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.