CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine agents aboard a P-3 Orion aircraft assisted in the interdiction and seizure of more than $12.5 million in cocaine on Dec. 12.
While on a routine patrol supporting counter-drug operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, an OAM aircrew aboard a CBP P-3 Long Range Tracker detected a suspicious panga boat in waters south of Panama City, Panama.
CBP agents aboard the P-3 aircraft vectored a U.S. Navy helicopter to the vessel's location as suspected smugglers began dumping a large amount of narcotics into the water. OAM agents maintained surveillance while the helicopter crew fired warning shots and subsequently disabled the panga.
Maritime assets intercepted the open-hull vessel and recovered more than 167 pounds of cocaine while detaining three individuals.
The P-3 aircraft patrolling during the operation is based at OAM's National Air Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“We work closely with our law enforcement partners to successfully disrupt smuggling operations,” said NASOC-CC Director John Wassong. “This is just another example of the work of our dedicated agents to detect, interdict and prevent the unlawful movement of illegal drugs.”
Under the international counter illicit trafficking initiative called Operation Martillo, U.S. military and law enforcement agencies and regional partner nations' military and law enforcement agencies patrol the air and sea environments in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis.
Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that are working together to counter trans-national organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Florida.
CBP OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with Joint Interagency Task Force South. The P-3s patrol in a 42 million-square mile area known as the Source and Transit Zone, which includes more than 41 nations, the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States.
In Fiscal Year 2014, CBP's P-3s operating out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, flew more than 5,900 hours in support of counternarcotic missions resulting in 135 interdiction events of suspected smuggling vessels and aircraft. These events led to the total seizure or disruption of 126,489 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $9.47 billion.