US flag Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

AMO P-3 Crews Contribute to 2-Ton Cocaine Seizure

Release Date: 
December 9, 2019

Four suspects caught with narcotics valued at over $51M

Low Profile Vessel in open waters
Drug smugglers haul large loads of cocaine towards the U.S. using
stealthy low-profile vessels (LPV).

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two P-3 aircrews from Air and Marine Operations found a low-profile vessel (LPV) off the coast of South America and followed it until the U.S. Coast Guard arrived and seized the cocaine discovered aboard the craft valued at over $51,000,000.

A Corpus Christi-based aircrew had just departed its deployment base in South America for a patrol when the radar operator detected a tiny target on the water. When the sensor operator zoomed in with the P-3’s sophisticated camera system, they saw an LPV; a stealthy boat that the drug cartels use for the sole purpose of smuggling drugs. The aircrew continued to track the vessel for several hours until an aircraft from AMO’s other P-3 base in Jacksonville, Florida, arrived to continue the chase.

The two aircraft took turns watching the smugglers until the US Coast Guard reached the vessel on Nov. 17. The AMO crews were happy to find out that their efforts led to the Coast Guard’s detaining four smugglers and seizing 3,900 pounds of cocaine.

“Drug smugglers hiding in the deep water of the Pacific are no match for our aircrews,” said Corpus Director of Air and Marine Operations Bob Blanchard. “This operation proves that we won’t rest until those who mean us harm are arrested.”

An AMO P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker
An Air and Marine Operations P-3 Orion Long Range
Tracker from the National Air Security Opertions
Center - Corpus Christi, Texas patrols the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Air Security Operations Center—Corpus Christi is a division of Air and Marine Operations and operates the Lockheed P-3 Orion conducting counterdrug patrol missions over the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. In fiscal year 2019, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the seizure or disruption of 284,825 pounds of cocaine.

The mission of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations is to safeguard 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 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, Air and Marine Operations uses its sophisticated fleets to detect, sort, intercept, track and apprehend criminals in diverse environments at and beyond U.S. borders.

Last modified: 
December 9, 2019