By ENS Sarah Lovelace, USS Ingraham Public Affairs
USS INGRAHAM, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Coastguardsmen disrupted a shipment of approximately 486 kilograms of cocaine in the international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in August.
Members from USS Ingraham (FFG 61) and USS McClusky (FFG 41) with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 Detachment 2 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 Detachment 3, and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) worked together during the operation.
Ingraham, based in Everett, Washington, and McClusky, based in San Diego, successfully tracked and intercepted two small go-fast vessels known as pangas, capable of speeds up to 20 knots.
The crew of the pangas quickly jettisoned all narcotics and evidence after the Ingraham's SH-60B Seahawk and McClusky's SH-60S detected the suspicious vessels. The pangas were finally compelled to stop following several rounds of warning shots and engine-disabling gunfire.
"Ingraham and McClusky's tactics and flawless execution were keys to the success of this coordinated operation," said Ingraham's commanding officer, Cmdr. Daniel Straub. "The capabilities two U.S. warships armed with four helicopters, two small boats, and two U.S. Coast Guard LEDETs bring to the fight made escape impossible for these suspected drug smugglers. I am extremely proud of my crew for their hard work and impressive performance during yet another successful interdiction operation."
Ingraham's rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was able to recover three bales estimated at 90 Kilograms, and the McClusky's RHIB recovered eleven bales weighing approximately 396 Kilograms.
The remaining cocaine sank after being tossed into the water by the fleeing suspects. The U.S. Coast Guard LEDET teams boarded the vessels, apprehended six suspects, and conducted a search of the craft.
Ingraham has seized a total of 3,302 kilograms of cocaine worth over $109 million during her deployment. This is her fourth successful interception since arriving in 4th Fleet in support of Operation Martillo. Her first interception was the seizure of a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in May.
Under the coordination of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, U.S. military and 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 Law Enforcement Detachments 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 transnational 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 multinational 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.