Coast Guard Offloading 3,200 Pounds of Cocaine

MIAMI — Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Bear are scheduled to offload approximately 3,200 pounds of cocaine, seized during a recent law enforcement patrol, at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this morning, marking the second interdiction involving the upgraded MH-65C Dolphin helicopter.

The case began when a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircrew from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., conducting law-enforcement patrols in the Western Caribbean Sea, sighted a suspicious go-fast vessel March 18. When the smugglers knew they had been detected, the go-fast vessel immediately departed the scene at a high rate of speed.

The Coast Guard Cutter Bear dispatched its embarked MH-65C Dolphin helicopter aircrew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, Fla., to stop the vessel. The Bear also launched one of the cutter’s small boats with a law-enforcement team onboard.

The smugglers aboard the go-fast vessel began dumping bales overboard and continued to flee. The HITRON aircrew used warning shots and disabling fire to try and stop the go-fast. While the smugglers and go-fast eventually evaded capture, the Bear’s boarding team recovered 50 bales of cocaine with an estimated value of $100 million.

“We are proud to have served on the front line of the U.S. Counter Narco-Terrorism efforts over the past two months, and are pleased to have kept more than 3,200 pounds of pure cocaine off the streets of America,” said Cmdr. Raymond W. Pulver, commanding officer of the Cutter Bear. “The opportunity to deploy with the Coast Guard’s new aerial Use-of-Force Helicopter, including its first two interdictions, was also very rewarding.”

The Helicopter Interdiction Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., recently began the planned transition from from the use of leased, MH-68 Stingray helicopters to the use of Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopters. The MH-65C provides aircrews upgraded radio capabilities, a heads-up-display to enhance night operations and an Electro-optical Sensor System to enhance detection capabilities.

The efforts of the Bear’s crew are part of the Coast Guard’s counter-drug strategy to reduce the supply of drugs to the U.S. by denying drug traffickers access to maritime routes in the 6 million square mile transit zone. The Coast Guard and its interagency partners have seen significant interdiction successes in the transit zone – Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean – in recent years. During 2007, Coast Guard crews seized a record 4.7 billion worth of cocaine.

Coast Guard Cutter Bear is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.

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