Disabling fire allows Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew to interdict $32.5 million of cocaine

MIAMI — The crew of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Valiant interdicted a go-fast vessel carrying approximately 2,654 pounds of cocaine, with a wholesale value of $32.5 million while on patrol in the Caribbean Sea as part of Operation Martillo May 31, 2012.

Valiant’s embarked helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, based in Jacksonville, Fla., worked with the U.S. Navy and other international partners and spotted the go-fast vessel outfitted for smuggling with five crewmembers aboard and suspicious bales on deck.

The go-fast crew ignored repeated orders from the Coast Guard to stop, and began to move erratically in an attempt to evade capture and threw the bales of contraband into the water.

In an effort to stop the go-fast, the helicopter fired warning shots ahead of the vessel’s bow. When the vessel’s crew ignored the warning shots, the helicopter crew next employed disabling shots, fired at and disabled one of the go-fast’s outboard engines. The shots disabled the vessel to allow Valiant’s law enforcement team to board and take positive control of the vessel and the five suspected smugglers.

The Nicaraguan Navy deployed two small crafts to aid the Coast Guard in the recovery of the contraband. A total of 43 bales, which tested positive for cocaine, were recovered.

Operation Martillo is a joint, interagency, international operation to deny Transnational Criminal Organizations air, land, and maritime use of Central American transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons and cash. Led by the Joint Interagency Task Force South, this operation is focused on sharing information and fusing assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies, The Department of Homeland Security and European and Western Hemisphere partner nations to counter this threat to U.S. and regional security and stability.

“”It was immensely gratifying for me to see our seasoned, proficient shipmates leading our new folks, and having both groups unite with our embarked aircrew to pull off a perfectly executed interdiction helping to keep drugs off our streets,” said Cmdr. John Dettleff, commanding officer aboard the Valiant.

The five detainees were transferred to federal law enforcement officials.

The cutter Valiant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Miami. Despite its 45 years of service in an aging fleet, its crew successfully carries out its missions of law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security. The Valiant and other medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class of cutters.

The new Offshore Patrol Cutter will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.

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