Jacksonville, Florida - Agents with the Office of Air and Marine (OAM) for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and interagency partners disrupted two separate drug smuggling attempts off the coast of El Salvador, resulting in the disruption of more than $178 million in contraband. Both events were part of Operation Martillo.
On February 2, an OAM aircrew operating the Guardian, the maritime variant of the Predator B unmanned aircraft system (UAS), working with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), intercepted three pangas, one of which carried 1,182 pounds of cocaine.
On February 12, an OAM aircrew operating the Guardian detected two pangas, one loaded with numerous packages, southeast of Comalapa, El Salvador. Agents contacted Guatemalan authorities to initiate an interdiction.
As Guatemalan authorities approached the pangas, crew members aboard one of the vessels began dumping several bales into the water. OAM agents continued surveillance while Guatemalan authorities intercepted both vessels and detained the suspects. The intercept resulted in the disruption of 1,212 pounds of cocaine.
“The UAS continues to enhance our operational capabilities to identify, disrupt, and degrade illicit activity,” said National Air Security Operations Deputy Director John Murphy. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to provide an integrated approach to counter-drug missions.”
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 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, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multinational law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of these illicit traffickers.
OAM’s Guardian UAS is an integral part of the counternarcotic missions operating in coordination with JIATF South. The aircraft provides a unique capability and enhances the ability of Operation Martillo partners to interdict or disrupt illicit traffickers.