Border Patrol Aircraft Routinely Disrupt Large-Scale Cocaine Smugglers

The Border Patrol’s P-3 aircraft that operate as part of the multinational Operation Martillo have once again proved their worth. One of these aircraft spotted a fast-moving vessel in open waters south of Panama on August 6, 2015 and immediately coordinated with Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South.

As part of this task force, Panama sent two boats to intercept the vessel and discovered 868 pounds of cocaine worth more than $64.9 million. Panamanian authorities also apprehended three individuals when they seized the vessel and its cargo.

A previous high-level bust took place on May 2, 2015 when a P-3 aircraft spotted a panga boat in the eastern Pacific. Border Patrol Office of Air and Marine agents maintained covert surveillance on the vessel while coordinating with interagency partners. The US Navy intercepted the boat, and video and still imagery showed that the crew dumped more than $90 million worth of cocaine overboard in an effort to evade capture.

Fifteen nations work together as part of Operation Martillo, and they have made significant inroads to counter illicit trafficking and transnational organized crime along the Central American Isthmus. JIATF South oversees the detection and monitoring of these traffickers and assists the interdiction efforts of multinational and US law enforcement agencies.

The CBP Office of Air and Marine operate the P-3s in coordination with JIATF South. These aircraft flew more than 5,900 hours in fiscal year 2014 to support counter narcotic missions. Authorities disrupted 135 suspecting smuggling vessels and aircraft as a direct result of these flights and seized or disrupted cocaine worth about $9.47 billion on the street.