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Drugs and Thugs

 

In addition to full-on submarines, it looks like the drug cartels are making another piece of heavy military hardware a standard part of their arsenals. Mexican authorities have seized another truck modified by drug traffickers to resemble an infantry fighting vehicle.

This latest find is based on a Ford F-Series Super Duty pickup and features a pop-up battering ram, a rotating gun turret and steel armor complete with numerous firing ports for use by the people inside. Apparently, the cops found the “narcotank” abandoned on a rural road after a gunfight between rival cartels members in the town of Mezquitic. This is the second “drug tank” captured by Mexican authorities in less than two months.  So, it appears that the “Federales” and other authorities throughout the region (including the United States) are engaged in a mini arms race with the traffickers (although, from the reports, it sounds like this vehicle was being used against other cartels not the police). We’re already using Cold War technology developed to hunt the pinnacle of Soviet submarine tech to find the newest generation of narco-subs. What’s next? Will we see Mexican police regularly carrying antitank weapons in their patrol vehicles?

Image via PickupTrucks​.com

Well, not quite, but they’ve at least built seriously armored trucks. Look at this beast that was captured by Mexican authorities following a firefight two weeks ago. The truck can hit 68-mph and carry 12 men and, as you can see, it’s got some serious armor. Apparently it was disabled with shots to its unprotected tires.

Kind of reminds me of the gun trucks used by the U.S. military in Vietnam and later, Iraq.

Via Jalopnik.

Here’s some great mid-week image porn. It’s U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 106 capturing a drug sub in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean on April 15. The boat was carrying six tons of cocaine (damn, that’s a lot of money) along with its crew of four.

It looks like this narco boat is only a semi-submersible, relatively old school compared with the new generation of genuine submarines the cartels are now fielding.

While this is a great catch for the USCG, I’ve got to ask; how many of these incredibly hard to find boats are making it to their destinations undetected for every one that is caught?

Latin American drug cartels continue to launch scores of semi-submersible, cocaine hauling submarines northward from jungle hideouts to feed insatiable U.S. drug markets. The fiberglass vessels, typically 60 to 70 feet in length and able to haul 10 tons of cocaine, are assembled in remote workshops, hidden deep in coastal mangrove swamps and even far inland in Colombia’s mountainous jungle. Powered by diesel motors, the subs travel by night and lay low during the day, almost wake-less, they are incredibly difficult to spot from the air.

How hard? During a recent exercise, a captured semi-submersible was towed behind a ship and planes and helicopters flew over to try and spot it from the air, but could not, said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of Southern Command, speaking to defense reporters yesterday. The vessels are not true submarines; they’re built with a very low profile to the water, painted in various shades of blue to blend into the ocean, but with favorable currents they can travel up to 5,000 miles.

Fraser’s command has had success capturing the semi-submersibles. Drug cartels launched more of the cocainecows in 2008, when SOUTHCOM seized 76; last year 52 subs were either detected or disrupted. “That’s a one year data point, I don’t know whether that means the trend has fallen off or they’ve changed their tactics.” Most sub seizures came about through informant’s tips. They key is finding the jungle hideouts where the subs are built, because once underway, well, there’s a lot of ocean to scour. SOUTHCOM nets about 25 percent of the total drugs shipped north, Fraser said.

More and better aerial surveillance and reconnaissance is SOUTHCOM’s biggest need, he said, an aerial asset that can provide broad area maritime surveillance; sensors that could peer into jungle foliage would also be nice. “In the mangrove swamps in western Colombia you can be ten feet away from where somebody’s building a semi-submersible and never see it.”

– Greg