CIMSEC continues their series on “non-navies” with “Narco-Submarines: Drug Cartels’ Innovative Technology,” by Byron Ramirez. It provides an overview of the state of narco-sub development, employment, and countermeasures. It also announces the imminent publication of an unclassified study, “Narco-Submarines – Specially Fabricated Vessels Used For Drug Smuggling Purposes,” to be released by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO).
Defense News is reporting DOD is apparently discussing changes to its COCOM structure. One possible change is combining NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM into a single AOR.
Since the current boundary bisects maritime smuggling routes, this change might be helpful in easing coordination of counter drug patrols and might make it easier for the resulting organization to consider alternative strategies regarding where to commit assets.
“Combining Northern and Southern commands could lead to greater resources for activities in South and Central America, which experts say has long been DoD’s most neglected region.
“Combining the regions could better address cross border issues — particularly drug trafficking — between Mexico, South America and the United States, said Bob Killebrew, a retired Army colonel and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“Mexico is part of Northern Command, which also includes the contiguous United States, Alaska and Canada.
“[I]t makes … sense not to have a kind of artificial DoD boundary, not only between Mexico and Central America, but between Mexico and the American border as well,” Killebrew said.”
Eliminating or reshaping AFRICOM is also being considered.
A couple of interesting notes regarding waters where the Coast Guard frequently operates, both concerning Nicaragua. First they seem to be getting drug enforcement intelligence from the Russians, and the US does not mind. Second they are getting six vessels from the Russians, that may be usable for law enforcement or for possible sovereignty patrols over their newly expanded EEZ.
Two of these ships are 550 ton ASUW and AAW missile equipped Molniya Class Corvettes like the one pictured above, a development of the older Turantul Class Corvette. The other four are closer to 110 foot WPBs, if a bit more heavily armed.
Costa Rica is apparently concerned. I’ve got a soft spot for Costa Rica. Their only armed service is their Coast Guard, and they have had some run-ins with Nicaragua in the past.
A couple of items that might be of interest.
If there was any doubt about the viciousness of the drug wars in Mexico, this ought to clarify things: Recently a Mexican Navy Vice Admiral was ambushed and murdered.
The Italian Coast Guard launches the first of two new ships. Relatively large at 310 feet long and 3,600 tons full load, but not nearly as capable as the projected Offshore Patrol Cutter, to me this looks like an adaptation of an oil industry Offshore Support Vessel. Most interesting feature is electric propulsion. Raytheon’s integrated bridge system might also be interesting, but there are no details in the story. Reasonable question is, can they can function effectively with a crew of only 38 or do they need additional augmentation for each mission. Apparently they can routinely berth up to 60 in addition to the crew, and up to 600 additional in case of an emergency. This last is a reflection of Italy’s Alien Migrant Interdiction problem.
An interesting note here on the Canadian participation in the War on Drugs in the Caribbean and an reported breech of international law.
Be sure to read the comment by Geoff Hamilton about why the Canadian charts were “in error.”
http://www.informationdissemination.net/ which has been providing excellent coverage of the crisis in Korea, also found a piece of particular interest to the Coast Guard in Der Spiegel (in English) recounting an interview with a man purported to have piloted vessels smuggling cocaine North for two years including semi-submersibles.
It makes interesting reading.
More photos of the narco-sub and the “shipyard” where it was built here.
This article has a bit more information but the most interesting part is an almost 30 minute video (in Spanish with English subtitles) about development of semi-submersibles and towed submersible cargo containers. It includes comments by both the Captain commanding the Colombian Coast Guard in the Pacific and a “retired” drug smuggler. Be aware there are commercials, but I recommend it highly. (Ex-WMEC-628 Durable, transferred in 2003, is visible in many of the scenes from the Colombian base.)