CBP Surveillance Aircraft Intercepts Large Smuggling Vessel

CBP P-3 patrol aircraft out of National Air Security Operations Center-Jacksonville spots a large go-fast boat (CBP)

Published Jan 3, 2020 8:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

In December, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion crew intercepted a large, low-profile go-fast vessel in the Eastern Pacific. Upon interdiction and boarding, CBP's U.S. Coast Guard partners discovered over 3,600 pounds of cocaine on board. 

The P-3 Orion crew located and tracked the vessel over the course of two days. On Dec. 17, the crew vectored the U.S. Coast Guard to its location for an interdiction, resulting in the arrest of three Colombian nationals and the seizure of 3,670 pounds of cocaine.

The seizure represents a typical intercept for the U.S. Coast Guard, which conducts all law enforcement boardings for the joint interagency anti-smuggling effort in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean region. The USCG captured about 450,000 pounds of cocaine in FY2018. 

While little advertised, CBP's Air and Marine Operations branch operates its own fleet of ex-Navy P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft - both the P-3C long-range patrol variant and the P-3B airborne early warning aircraft. These sophisticated anti-submarine warfare / maritime patrol airplanes are popular with naval forces around the world; on its own, CBP AMO has more of them than many U.S.-allied naval operators. 

The AMO's National Air Security Operations Center-Jacksonville forms half of the P-3 operations wing, along with a partner center in Corpus Christi, Texas. These P-3 aircraft operate throughout North and South America to enforce U.S. borders and prevent attempts to smuggle people or contraband. 

As a whole, AMO has about 1,800 personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Last year, AMO's operations netted about 140 tons of cocaine, 150 tons of marijuana and 140 tons of methamphetamine.