Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton Recovers Cocaine

EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton recovered $55 million worth of cocaine from the Eastern Pacific Ocean Feb. 29.

An MH-65C helicopter crew from the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, Fla., underway with the Hamilton, spotted the bales while flying a patrol of the area.

The helicopter was on its first search pattern when one of the crew members saw six bales clumped together. The crew marked the position of the bales and vectored the boat in for recovery.

The source of the cocaine was not found, but an estimated 1800 kilograms (nearly two tons) was recovered.

The Coast Guard, along with the Navy, has been searching the Pacific waters of Central America for illegal activity, and it is believed the crew of a smuggling vessel fearing capture may have dumped the drugs.

This is the first time a Coast Guard vessel has used the MH-65C helicopter for drug interdiction operations during a patrol of Pacific Central American waters. The MH-65C is similar to the HH-65 helicopter that is most well known for its role in search and rescue missions. However, the MH-65C has been modified for use in counter narcotics operations and HITRON crews flying the helicopter are armed with a high-powered .50 caliber rifle used for disabling the engines of smuggling vessels.

The crew of the Hamilton began their patrol after leaving San Diego Jan. 29.

The Hamilton is a 378-foot high endurance cutter homported in San Diego.

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