Tag Archives: Interdiction

Sprucan Desert Shield Watercolors

While assigned to the Middle East Force from September to December 1990, the Pascagoula-built Spruance-class destroyer USS O’Brien (DD-975) participated in maritime interdiction as part of Operation Desert Shield. Conducting Persian Gulf patrols in support of the United Nations embargo on Saddam’s Iraq, O’Brien investigated over 400 vessels.

Aboard for part of that cruise was naval artist John Charles Roach who chronicled some of the work.

“50-Caliber Watch,” oil on canvas board, John Charles Roach, 1991. Two armed sailors in protective gear stand watch near a .50-caliber machine gun on board USS O’Brien (DD-975) in the Persian Gulf (91-049-D). “On the bridge wing of USS O’Brian (DD 975), two crewmen man the 50-caliber machine gun. They will fire cover during boarding for ship identification or a threat of small boat attack to the ship during the enforcement of sanctions against Iraq.”

“Interdiction and Confirmation,” watercolor by John Charles Roach, 1991. Maritime interdiction operations (MIO) in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield (99-049-C). “USS O’Brien (DD-975), is moving in close to the Star of South America. Only by a close look can USS O’Brien inspect the weld marks of the ship. Weld marks are as unique as a fingerprint in identifying a ship. USS O’Brien is looking to see if the name on the ship’s transom matches its welds, or if it has been altered recently in an attempt to disguise the ship.”

“Flight to Baghdad,” watching TLAMs head in at the beginning of Desert Storm. Watercolor on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1991

“Up Romeo” Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1991

Decommissioned while still in her prime on 24 September 2004 with only 27 years on the Navy List, O’Brien was sunk as a target off Hawaii by USS Lake Erie (CG-70), HMCS Vancouver, and USN aircraft, on 9 February 2006.

Not bad for a narcosubmarino

Spanish authorities arrested two citizens of Ecuador near the beach of O Foxo, Galicia on 24 November. Their ride? A scuttled 66-foot narco submarine carrying over three tons of coke. It is believed to be the first such craft to be seized from Latin America in Europe.

The Guardia Civil is currently trying to figure out if it was launched from a mother ship or made the entire journey on its own. Keep in mind that it is roughly 5,000 miles from the northeast tip of South America to Spain in a straight line. With an average speed of about 10 knots, said narco boat likely took more than three weeks to make a solo crossing only to be seen at the end of its run after things didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, the USCG recently popped a similar such craft in the Eastern Pacific, where they are increasingly common. How long before these are seen in asymmetric warfare by users carrying dirty bombs into a vital port or chokepoint?


U.S. Coast Guard boarding team members climb aboard a suspected smuggling vessel in September. Crews intercepted a drug-laden, 40-foot self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in the Eastern Pacific carrying approximately 12,000 pounds of cocaine, worth over $165 million and apprehended four suspected drug smugglers. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

Just hailing a ride on a Narco Sub

In the bonkers short video below, you see a U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces TACLET guy deployed on the U.S. Coast Guard Legends-class National Security Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) going for a ride on a 31-foot Long Range Interceptor “somewhere in the Eastern Pacific.”

Said Coastie makes a perfect landing on what JIATF-South calls “a self-propelled semi-submersible suspected drug smuggling vessel (SPSS)” but best just known as a Narco-Sub. The below happened June 18, 2019.

This is the SPSS when surfaced, to give a scale at just how much of the hull was below the sea:

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members inspect a self-propelled semi-submersible June 19, 2019, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members inspect a self-propelled semi-submersible June 19, 2019, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Just two weeks after the above video was shot, crewmembers of the USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South interdicted a second SPSS while conducting counter-trafficking operations in the Eastern Pacific.

(Coast Guard Photos)

The Coast Guard hasn’t been this busy fighting submarines since the Germans!

All tricks, no treats: Coasties chalk up another sneaky narco sub, making 43 total

The Alameda, California-based USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751), one of the new 418-foot Legend-class National Security Cutters, offloaded 39,000 pounds of cocaine Thursday at Naval Base San Diego– including a large bust from a narco sub.

The self-propelled semi-submersible, or SPSS, was stopped in the Pacific Ocean off Central America on September 6.

Upon sighting the vessel, the cutter launched two fast pursuit boats with boarding teams and an armed helicopter crew to interdict the SPSS. Five suspects, apprehended by the Coasties (where are you going to go in open ocean?) attempted to scuttle the dope boat as water filled the smuggler to just below the helm.

Waesche crew members boarded the sinking vessel and were able to dewater it using portable pumps, allowing boarding officers to safely remove over 5,600 pounds of cocaine from the SPSS. It is the sixth such submersible captured this year by the service and the 43rd total.

According to a fact sheet from the service, Coast Guardsmen apprehended a total 585 suspected drug smugglers in Fiscal Year 2016– a new record for the service, up from 503 suspected drug smugglers last year.