The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded 2,500 lbs. of cocaine worth an estimated $37 million seized last week in a historic multi-national counterdrug operation south of the Dominican Republic.
The drug interdiction marks the first time an armed Coast Guard helicopter embarked on a foreign-flagged military vessel in support of counterdrug operations.
On Jan. 22, a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft detected a 25' go-fast boat with four individuals and suspicious packages aboard moving at a high rate of speed. The Coast Guard launched its helicopter from the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave Knight to intercept the suspected drug smugglers.
The Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene and fired warning shots in an attempt to get the vessel to stop. The suspected smugglers were observed jettisoning multiple packages overboard during the pursuit. The helicopter employed airborne use-of-force and disabled the vessel.
The Wave Knight, with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team aboard, arrived on scene and detained the four suspected smugglers and recovered 45 bales of cocaine from the water.
"This historic operation is a result of a dedication to improved interoperability and highlights the great success and commitment of our interagency partnerships to stop the illegal flow of narcotics into the United States,” said Rear Adm. Jake Korn, commander of the Coast Guard Seventh District.
The four suspected smugglers were transferred to law enforcement authorities in the U.S. The seized contraband was transferred from the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Adminstration.
The operation was a result of a combined effort between the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S), the Coast Guard and international partners to combat illicit drugs being trafficked into the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.