MIAMI – U.S. and Colombian Navy vessels intercepted a speedboat carrying nearly 2,200 kilograms (4,850 pounds) of cocaine in the western Caribbean Sea as part of Operation Martillo on May 6. The cocaine had a street value in excess of US$59 million.
Partner nations are participating in Operation Martillo, a joint effort of Western Hemisphere and European nations to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion aircraft initially detected the speedboat, “El Kike,” and then turned over the tracking to a helicopter from guided missile frigate USS Nicholas.
The chopper, from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 42 Detachment 9, tracked the go-fast vessel until the ship was in position to make a coordinated approach with the helicopter. The vessel then stopped, jettisoned about half of its cargo, then turned and headed toward Colombia at top speed.
The USS Nicholas adjusted its course while contacting nearby forces – USS McClusky and the Colombian Navy ship ARC 20 de Julio – for assistance. A helicopter from HSL 49 Detachment 8 attached to McClusky maintained surveillance of the go-fast boat and diverted it into Colombian territorial waters where it was intercepted by the Colombian Navy.
“With the help of some friends, we accomplished what we set out to do – disrupt the drug trade,” said Cmdr. Stephen Fuller, commanding officer of Nicholas. “Interdictions are challenging, but with the help of McClusky, Customs, and the Colombian Navy, we executed a successful operation.”
Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in Operation Martillo, which started in the middle of January 2012.