There is a new publication that appears to be the definitive source on Narco subs and related craft including semi-submersibles and un-manned, towed narco “torpedoes.” It certainly has the best selection of photographs I have ever seen on the subject.
Narco-Submarines Specially Fabricated Vessels Used For Drug Smuggling Purposes
In cooperation with InSight Crime & Small Wars Journal— El Centro
Byron Ramirez and Robert J. Bunker, Editors
And of course these could be used for smuggling in things other than drugs.
You can access the report in pdf form here.
Recent news, a group arrested for helping narco traffickers build their “subs” included former members of the Colombian Navy and at least one serving officer. Not really surprising that with the temptation of big money they have a few “bad apples,” but a cautionary tale.
Coast Guard Cutter Midgett interdicts drug smuggler 335 miles off the coast of Costa Rica 1/20/2011
United States Coast Guard
Not exactly news, but this was a ship I served on (before the make-over), and the picture was to good to pass up.
Columbia claims to have found their first fully submersible narco submarine. Looking at the pictures and the specs given, its apparent that this is a different sort of craft. The claimed maximum dive depth is only three meters (10′) and there is what appears to be a permanently fixed snorkel 5 meters (16.5′) in length, meaning, even when at maximum depth, the top of the snorkel will be above the surface. Unlike the true submarine found in Ecuador, there is no mention of an electric motor. It’s not really a true submersible, but it’s not a typical semi-submersible either. It seems this craft is intended for “SNOrkel Transit” so my shorthand description would be that it is a “Snot boat.”
Of course we know there have been attempts to use true submersibles to transport cocaine, but this is the first I’ve heard of an effort to find them at sea. From http://defensetech.org/:
“Calling them “third-generation” Narco-subs, Adm. James Stavridis, supreme NATO commander said during a speech this week in Arlington, Va., that the U.S. and its allies in Latin America are using P-3s to hunt these actual submarines which have communications suites that rival some modern military subs.”
The article goes on to raise a good question, “All this begs the question, even if you can find a submarine from the sky, how do you know 100 percent who it belongs without getting it to surface? How do you get the vessel to surface for inspection during peacetime without serious kinetic action? Do authorities simply track the vessel and wait for it to arrive at its destination before moving into arrest the smugglers?”
(Thanks again to Lee for the topic)