The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11) with embarked U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 102 seized over $49 million in suspected cocaine, Oct. 11-12, 2021. On Oct. 11, a suspected drug smuggling go-fast vessel (GFV) was spotted by a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and Sioux City was vectored in for an intercept. Sioux City deployed her MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 4 and a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB). Once on scene, the occupants of the vessel were observed jettisoning packages into the water. The helicopter executed disabling fire and the RHIB arrived on scene to gain positive control. The vessel was searched, packages recovered from the water, and three suspected drug traffickers were detained.
The following day, an additional suspected drug smuggling GFV was spotted and Sioux City was vectored in for another interception. After Sioux City established positive control over the vessel, two additional suspected drug traffickers were detained and 370 kilograms of cocaine of seized. The two interdictions resulted in an overall 1,197 kilograms of bulk cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of $49 million dollars.
“Once again this crew continues to perform Conducting back-to-back drug busts, demonstrates this team is able to handle any mission called upon, and will continue to succeed. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific,” said Cmdr. Brad Tonder, Sioux City’s commanding officer.
On April 1, 2020, U.S. Southern Command began what was then known as Enhanced Counter Narcotics (CN) Operations in the Western Hemisphere to increase the disruption of illegal drug trafficking. This counter Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO)/CN operational approach, which has become enduring, supports our objectives to degrade the capabilities of TCOs and save lives. With our increased presence, we have bolstered support to U.S. and partner nation law enforcement by sharing information and intelligence to help expand target packages. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.