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Raw video obtained by AP

July 6, 2010

Narco sub could have submerged to 65 ft

SOURCE: DEA

Up until now, so-called "narco subs" used by drug smugglers have, in fact, been semi-submersibles - fast boats that operated with most of their hulls submerged inches below the water. Now, though, Ecuador Anti-Narcotics Police Forces and Ecuador Military authorities have - with the assistance of the U.S DEA - seized what is described as a fully-operational submarine built for the primary purpose of transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine.

The investigation of the captured submarine and those responsible for its construction is ongoing. One person has been taken into custody by Ecuadorian authorities at the site of the seizure.

According to the DEA, the twin-screw, diesel electric-powered submarine is about 30 meters long and about nine feet high from the deck plates to the ceiling. The sophisticated vessel also has a conning tower, periscope and air conditioning system.

In a report in the LA Times from Bogota, Colombia, Chris Kraul provides some further details:

He writes that the fiberglass hulled vessel also had "scrubbers" to purify the air, and bunks for a maximum crew of six. But what set the craft apart from semi-submersible craft, he says, was a complex ballast system that would have enabled it to dive as deep as 65 feet before surfacing.

DEA Andean Regional Director Jay Bergman stated: "Traffickers historically employed slow moving fishing boats, sail boats, pleasure craft and subsequently go-fasts. Eventually, when speed no longer won the day, traffickers to avoid detection, turned to parasitic devices on the bottom of ship hulls, towed array devices and ultimately low profile vessels and semi-submersible boats. The advent of the narco-submarine presents new detection challenges for maritime interdiction forces. The submarine's nautical range, payload capacity and quantum leap in stealth have raised the stakes for the counter-drug forces and the national security community alike."

DEA says the submarine was constructed in a remote jungle environment in an effort to elude law enforcement or military interdiction, and is currently located near a tributary close to the Ecuador/Colombia border. As a result of DEA intelligence, Ecuadorian authorities were able to seize the vessel before it was able to make its maiden voyage. This is the first seizure of a clandestinely constructed fully operational submarine built to facilitate trans-oceanic drug trafficking, says DEA.


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