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P-3 Subhunters Using ASW Gear to Find Narco-Subs?

by John Reed on January 14, 2011

Remember about a couple of years ago when news of drug smugglers using so called “semi-submersibles” was all the rage? Those craft can almost completely submerge themselves to evade interception. Still, the vessels don’t go all the way underwater and can be spotted from ships or aircraft and have been intercepted a number of times.

Since then, the high seas cat-and-mouse game between governments and drug smugglers has become more intense now that the cartels have built actual submarines. It sounds like these vessels are capable of staying underwater long enough to warrant the use of P-3 subhunters to find them.

Calling them “third-generation” Narco-subs, Adm. James Stavridis, supreme NATO commander said during a speech this week in Arlington, Va., that the U.S. and its allies in Latin America are using P-3s to hunt these actual submarines which have communications suites that rival some modern military subs. Now, he didn’t elaborate, but I’m pretty sure Stavridis wasn’t talking about the airborne early warning versions of the P-3 used by the Department of Homeland Security to track drug flights or another variant used by DHS that can track surface ships suspected of smuggling. Yes, the Navy has been using P-3s to help hunt drug smugglers on the surface, but what’s new here is that they may actually be using the planes’ ASW capabilities.

The existence of these actual submarines was first unveiled last summer when police and soldiers discovered a 100-foot long, air-conditioned sub estimated to be able to carry 10 tons of cargo, at a secret narco-shipyard in the jungles of Ecuador. Rumor has it these vessels are designed and built with serious help from the leftist Colombian rebel group known as the FARC.

All this begs the question, even if you can find a submarine from the sky, how do you know 100 percent who it belongs without getting it to surface? How do you get the vessel to surface for inspection during peacetime without serious kinetic action? Do authorities simply track the vessel and wait for it to arrive at its destination before moving into arrest the smugglers?

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcase January 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

That's what subhunters do; identify, track and if necessary sink subs, and they have a number of tools for that.

- A MAD boom – the stinger-like sensor extending from the tail – to detect disturbances in the Earths magnetic field (such as caused by a passing metal sub),
- airdropped sonobouys which float and lower hydrophones under water,
- surface radar; the P-3s radar can detect periscopes, and even detect tell-tale (wake) wave patters,
- sniffers; the P-3 has sensors which can detect diesel fumes from miles away.
- infrared; the IR sensor can detect underwater subs, and even certain (algae) disturbances (if you're lucky).
- processing power; old, but still powerfull computers which can compute all the data and compare it to known 'footprints' – unique info often recovered by a trailing (spying) submarine.

So if I'd be the P-3 ASW tactical coordinator (TACCO), I'd first establish the sector where I'd want to spend the rest of the 8-10 hour flight looking for possible contacts, drop sonobouys at specific corridors/choke points, and fly a racetrack pattern using the MAD-boom, radar, sniffers and good ole Mark One Eyeball with binocs for possible contacts.

If something interesting is found, the TACCO can order the pilot to go in low and slow to get a closer look (with binocs, radar and/or IR). Drop special search sonobouys to "ping" an underwater contact, or just passively listen to it.

These make-shift NARCO-subs/semi-submersibles are NOISY, you have no idea. They can be detected by ASW assets miles away, be it by P-3, navy (LAMPS) helicopters, frigates or other submarines.

These Narco subs can mask their sound by hiding in the noise from surface waves, but they can't stay there forever. ASW is something NATO is very good at – well, was anyway.

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Charley January 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Don't want to be on the binocs for too long: a sure way to make yourself sick:)

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theman January 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

is it just me, or have you written this exact same post before?

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Christopher Bloom January 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Maybe the Cartels will salve the problem of the Navy not knowing how to find Diesel Subs it's like hyper realistic training kill two Birds with one stone.

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icedrake January 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

"How do you get the vessel to surface for inspection during peacetime without serious kinetic action? Do authorities simply track the vessel and wait for it to arrive at its destination before moving into arrest the smugglers?"

That's what you would want to do, anyway. If you captured the sub in transit, the most you'd be getting is the shipment itself and usually one low-ranked operator. What you really want is to unravel the whole logistics structure, starting with whoever shows up to receive the shipment. It's not like the sub will be asking for official mooring space at a commercial port.

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joeblow January 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Does anyone stop and wonder just how much money is going into this failed war on drugs? Drugs are still relatively cheap and easily accessible. Prisons are overflowing with low level drug offenders. Governments around the world are destabilized by the illicit drug trade. What do you think is going to happen? If we buy just one more sub hunter, or open up one more prison, or arrest that one drug kingpin, that the war would be over and illegal drugs would no longer be available?

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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George Jacobs January 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm

The cost to society of making hard drugs like cocaine and heroin easily available more than offsets the cost of these attempts to stop the flow. Read about China during the Opium Wars and decide if you really want that here. Calling it the "War on Drugs" was a one of the stupider ideas because it implies the ability to win or lose the "War". It's an ongoing law enforcement problem like preventing and deterring property crimes, muggings, theft, rape, murder, etc. It will never be "won" but we shouldn't stop trying, just like we shouldn't stop enforcing laws against murder.

You say "Governments around the world are destabilized by the illicit drug trade." How would legalizing all drugs prevent that? Again – read the history books. It's been tried before and it's ugly.

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joeblow January 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for your insightful reply. As a counter point, Portugal doesn’t seem to have done so bad with its decriminalization of drugs:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

I’m not saying it will work in the states, my point is that what we are doing now does not work, and seems to be getting worse.

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chaos0xomega January 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I'm telling you, lets go the roman route. Napalm the narco-fields and then sew it with salt so they can't regrow anything there for a long time. Its the only way. :obvious troll:

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joeblow January 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm

No troll. My simple point is that billions are spent on the war on drugs with little to show for it. I want to discuss what real steps can be taken.

We already do something like you suggest with herbicides.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_eradication
Apart from the fact that it doesn’t seem to work, herbicide resistant coca plants have emerged. The problem is that the world is really big. Even literal napalming and salting is not a feasible solution.

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Name January 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I would recommend the hippie route.

Make drugs freely accessible from drug stores, on the condition of swearing that you know what you're doing, and listening to advise about how to administer them safely.

Drug smuggling is only profitable because drugs are expensive. Drugs being expensive is the reason why a dealer tries to get new addicts. Drugs being expensive is why addicts steal. Drugs being illegal is why they are expensive, and as a secondary reason, it discourages people from seeking treatment to addiction.

This can all be combated, but not using military methods. It can be combatted using economic methods, by collapsing prices.

Of course, mafia would find new profitable ventures, but those would be different. Mafia will remain as long as state remains, but particular facets of its activity like drug smuggling, are indeed a product of the "war" on drugs.

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David McGill January 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Excellent point. As long as there is demand for drugs, someone will find a way to fill that demand. All of the interdiction attempts barely put a dent in the flow. I recommend decriminalizing drugs and putting all the money that is being spent on trying to enforce pointless drug laws into prevention and rehabilitation. In the past there have not been any very effective rehab programs, but one that is having amazing success world wide is Narconon, which also has a huge drug education and prevention program. http://www.narconon.org/

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Will January 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Guess my inner caveman got loose, but wouldn't it be within the right to self defense to sink a sub covertly entering US territorial waters?

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praetorian January 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Yes, but there goes the 10 tons of cocain the law enforcement would get to parade on the news. They want thier evidence.

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VNCcc January 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Self-defense against a cargo vessel? Hard to justify. But hey, 'self-defense is as self defense does.'
Your "entering US territorial waters" is right on the dot.

Now, the Carribean is far from US property alone, many nations border this sea. And not all are allies of the US, not by a far stretch. To cut a long story short: How long before a nation, or even a cartel, shoots down a P-3?

And rightly so, I may say, in that same spirit of self-defense.

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blight January 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm

More like "board in the name of counter-terrorism", and if you fail to yield you are a terrorist, and if you are a terrorist, you have to be killed. Thus failing to stop is instant death.

If the Cartels had something as primitive as a trainer turboprop with 7.62 or 12.7mm cannon, they could probably damage, chase away or worst-case-scenario, bring down a P-3. However if the P3 is operating in the high altitude mode instead of the low altitude…

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asdf May 31, 2011 at 11:56 am

stop trolling

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Jonathan January 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

What happened to the US's previous propaganda claims that they could "hear any submarine within 2000 miles and tell if its a dolphin or a tadpole, no sub is too queit except our own, we have sensors everywhere the enemy can never find, our shores are impenatrable blah blah blah"

Military command needs to go. I think they must of all got grandfathered in a long time ago, or they are buying their way in like country club memberships. Whoever is in charge of organizing our R&D and equipment purchases is incompetant.

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Neil January 16, 2011 at 5:03 am

What happened to the US's previous propaganda claims that they could "hear any submarine within 2000 miles and tell if its a dolphin or a tadpole, no sub is too queit except our own, we have sensors everywhere the enemy can never find, our shores are impenatrable blah blah blah"

Go find us a quote of when they ever said anyhthing like that, go on, run along child and prove you're not as stupid as you appear.

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blight January 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I blame Hollywood more than the Navy. The Navy however does not disabuse anyone of the notion that its technology is worse than it really is…

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OS1(SS/SW) RET January 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm

As a former Anti-Submarine Air Controller (ASAC) aboard a number of US Navy Frigates and Destroyers, I can say this approach was tried 20+ years ago with limited success. Having a USCG detachment onboard conducting drug interdiction ops in the Caribbean, this method was attempted against small surface contacts. I suggested the theory of the cartels using an old Diesel/Electric to transport drugs and impulse them out of the torpedo tubes for pick up. The contacts we were tracking were small surface boats, but these are in the same 'Sound Channel' as a shallow sub or semi-submersible.

The Caribbean is lousy acoustics for sound travel. Warm, relatively shallow water, is an acoustic problem. Limitations of Sonobuoy design (ie; depth settings) also caused complications. Small MDR's (Mean Detection Range = 50% probability of detection) were so small that Sonobouy placement was short, using an excessive amount of them to cover even a small area. Of note, I used our onboard LAMPS (SH-2F) to conduct this study. After several contacts were 'prosecuted', we determined that the capabilities were of limited us and not very cost effective. As UpDopler points out, MAD is not a detection sensor, but a confirmation sensor. Like a search for a needle in a hay stack.

This 'study' we did was never anything official. It was at my suggestion that we should look in to it as we had limited air surveillance at times, but good intel on drug movements. By placing long life sonobouys we could in effect establish a fence and monitor them from the ship in a stand off position, launching our Helicopter only when needed. Needless to say, it was of limited success in the near surface, poor acoustic, sound channel of the Caribbean.

OS1(SS/SW) USN (ret)
askelfarm@yahoo.com

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Jacob January 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I heard the narcosubs are made from fiberglass….doesn't that make the P-3's MAD irrelevent?

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TLAM Strike January 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

The Facatativa Submarine‏ (which was captured before being assembled) was made of steel as was the 2006 Vigo sub.

Just to name drop (I hope TPTB don’t mind) the blog I post on did a big report on these subs:
http://covertshores.blogspot.com/2010/06/narco-submarines-torpedoes-and-semi.html

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Cranky Observer January 15, 2011 at 10:27 am

> All this begs the question, even if you can find a submarine
> from the sky, how do you know 100 percent who it belongs
> without getting it to surface?

All of which begs the question, since human beings have been consuming reasonable quantities of mind-altering and general recreational substances since they developed the concept of cause and effect, and since the percentage of people who abuse mind altering substances has remained fixed throughout human society regardless of how relaxed or punitive the prohibition laws have been, why don't we simply sell mind-altering substances to any citizen over the age of 18 who holds a "drug users license" from stores regulated by the Pure Food and Drug Act (i.e. Pennsylvania's state-run liquor stores), and give up the utterly unnecessary and colossally self-destructive War on Human Nature?

Cranky

Read more: http://defensetech.org/#ixzz1B7N3aJEr
Defense.org

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UpDopler January 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Every engine gives off a distinct signature (everything on this planet vibrates to a certain extent) as it moves through the water. By measuring the frequency of the signatures, an operator can determine with great accuracy what the "target" is. By using doppler you can also determine coure and speed.

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d-fens January 15, 2011 at 10:51 am

War on drugs: the stupidest, most wasteful war ever.

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olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm

So said the conformist. Thank goodness you weren't around in 1941.

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Michael Ross January 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Targeting supply is pointless, it'll always find a way through. Here's an unpopular view: dealers are just meeting a demand and law enforcement should take a light hand with them. Get them onside, pay them regularly for tipoffs on their new customers – most dealers couldn't care less where their money comes from, and put a plainclothes officer in every club with a hint of a reputation. Then hit all the users so hard they'll wish they were on death row. With sufficient disincentive and low enough odds of getting away with it demand will evaporate overnight and illicit drugs will be finished as a social issue.

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cmyk January 15, 2011 at 6:24 pm

How much will that kind of enforcement cost compared to the billions wasted already? Targeting the customer has really helped with prostitution and human trafficking.

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blight January 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm

How hilarious. And here I was thinking we could turn customers against drug dealers upon drug legitimization, and you want to support dealers against the users? And then enrich a previously criminal element?

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Michael Ross January 16, 2011 at 5:31 am

You bet. The Yakuza will always thrive and ceaseless parroting the worn liberal line that handing out drugs like sweets at the chemist will cause the gangs to shut down operations belies an unsurpassed ignorance of both gang sociology and the vitality of criminal organisation. What is a real scream is the notion that the solution to public intoxication with drugs is…make it legal. That'll teach 'em.

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Michael Ross January 16, 2011 at 4:55 am

The billions spent on fighting supply are billions dumped in the sea. Getting the police to bang their heads for half an hour a day would be the cheapest strategy of all. As for slavery criminals have and will be doing all of that drugs or no.

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crackedlenses January 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

And so we should stop trying to prevent human trafficking now? Why do we bother having laws if it's so "costly" to enforce them?….

sarcasm/ off

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Michael Ross January 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I am a little amused that you wrote 'sarcasm/ off' and yet failed to recognise a patently sarcastic response to the question of 'wasted billions' in which I was making precisely the opposite argument to that which you appear to have taken away. And my point about slavery was no more than what I said: that the criminals involved in 'prostitution and human trafficking' would be doing so regardless of whether drugs are or are not legalised and indeed these most abhorrent of practices were going on long before there ever was a market for drugs. Your inference that I am against combating slavery was entirely incorrect.

Michael Ross January 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

What is amusing is that you wrote 'sarcasm/ off' and yet failed to notice the obvious sarcasm in my reply to the previous question of 'wasted billions' managing by no small amount of creative ingenuity to infer the exact opposite to the argument I was making. And whilst we're at it my point regarding 'prostitution and human trafficking' was just that which I stated: that such practices were being carried out long before drugs became available and those involved in such crimes will be continuing to do so unimpeded by whether drugs are or are not legalised. Your assumption that I am opposed to combating slavery was erroneous. Might I perhaps sponsor the replacement of the cracked lenses?

Oh and to the 'moderator' or whatever you call yourself, bearing in mind that I'm only going to repost the exact same comment verbatim yet again you may like to leave it in this time.

steve January 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Why not just use a few attack subs and use the narco "subs" as target practice?

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TLAM Strike January 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

That would be like hunting deer with a bazooka. Attack subs are multi billion dollar weapon’s platforms. Airplanes and CG cutters are a lot cheaper and can capture narco subs. The guys that drive these things are not that well motivated, most are forced to do it by the cartels so a lot spill their guts when captured.

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blight January 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm

To be fair, it's not like they're going to have to spend their days chasing Soviet Akulas and keeping Typhoons and Golf class subs from getting too close to the eastern seaboard. We had large SSN fleets to counter large Soviet SSN/SSK fleets. Their opponents no longer exist. May as well get some use out of them if the submariners want to continue to justify line-item spending. If the best they can do is sell their platforms as concealable VLS launchers, then all it does is guarantee Ohios will be converted to SSGNs, but potentially leaves the large SSN fleet vulnerable to downsizing.

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TLAM Strike January 16, 2011 at 12:49 am

I think our Sub fleet is quite tied up with counter balancing the large sub forces of China and North Korea (around 70 boats each), and being on station to counter any Iranian action (around 15 subs in their fleet).

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blight January 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

The numbers I find for the PLAN submarine force are lower than you report. 7 SSNs, 6 SSBN, 39 SSK's of varying ages (including a few old Romeo class); KPN numbers are given as 20 Romeos, but the KPN has more mini subs. Iran has three kilos but plenty of minisubs.

The USN's SSN force would probably overmatch, but all three nations could be seen as compensating by bulking up numbers with mini subs. On the plus side, you can field new tech faster on a smaller platform; that and going blue water against the Navy in subs new or old is probably suicide.

olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm

We can spare a few for operations like what's being suggested.

samuel Mordente January 15, 2011 at 11:33 pm

As a retired cpo in a P-3 sqn, I thought they sold us out when the cold war ended, but we hung in there and now it looks as if we are back.

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UpDopler January 17, 2011 at 11:56 am

I agree with you 100% on that comment. I still remember the day they announced our squadron was being decommissioned, and the feeling I got was it couldn't happen quick enough.
Very sad day.

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surveyor47 January 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

In my opinion, so called "narco subs" should be declared terrorist craft and dealt with as such. These vessels are not registered with the IMO or any nation and they are attempting to evade detection. They could carry anything from biological warfare agents to chemical warfare agents to nuclear material (although one assumes that the P-3 would pick up on that one immediately). They should be given opportunity to surface and identify themselves or be taken under fire. Depth charges seem an appropriate level of force.

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TLAM Strike January 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

“to nuclear material (although one assumes that the P-3 would pick up on that one immediately). ”

Depends how deep they can go. Some of the newer Narco Subs are designed to operate more like true submarines. The deeper they can dive the less likely any radiation detectors will pick up a nuclear device. 10-20 feet minimum depth would be necessary.

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Michael Ross January 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I'm intrigued as to what would happen to bio/chem/nuc material if they were given a pounding by depth charges or bunker busters. Would it lead to contamination? I know that the IAF bombed Saddam's reactor back in the '80s without seeming to have an environmental impact that we've heard about. On the other hand Chyernobl spewed radiation for miles and even chemical shells are designed to release their contents on explosive inpact rather than conflagrating.

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surveyor47 January 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm

A "near miss" with a depth charge would probably sink the "sub" by leakage, rather than total conflageration. Containers would probably stay intact until crushed. The sea has a way of dealing with pollution even on a massive scale. Remember, German subs sank hundreds of freighters and tankers off the US East Coast, some within sight of Coney Island. Where are the slicks? The USS Threasher and Scorpion are on the bottom with reactors and reportedly with Mk45 torpeados, at least in the case of the Scorpion. No big pollution. I understand that some of the sunken Soviet subs had highly contaminated surrounding areas, but the Soviets also disposed of nuclear reactors at sea. Yes, there is local contamination, but the seas as a whole seem unaffected.

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blight January 17, 2011 at 12:05 am

If if sinks off the continental shelf it's unlikely to return to the shore. Nuclear reactors are made to withstand radiation and high pressures, and would be entombed in a submarine hull when they sink. You'd probably get quite a bit of radiation spread on sinking of a narcosub, but narcos are unlikely to have sufficient quantities of nuclear/biological/chemical weapons to make a significant dent on the ecosystem. Bear in mind that radionuclide contamination from Chernobyl is significant because of its distribution via airstreams of Iodine 131, which accumulates in thyroids. With water, the stuff is likely to distribute across volumes of water, and will dilute out quite quickly instead of flying through the air and falling down onto land.

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Dean January 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Very good Mordente. The real question is, is this a mission looking for weapon system or a weapons system seeking a mission? Did the DEA or DHS approach the Navy and say, "Hey, we have this narco-sub problem and we need your P-3s." or did the Navy come to DHS and say, "Hey, we have these P-3s looking for work, we hear you can use 'em to hunt narco-subs"?
I suspect the later. Unless a case can be made that the drug trade has shifted in such a major way towards sub trafficing AND existing assets are falling short.

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surveyor47 January 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Does anyone remember TWA800, very likely the first Bin Laden success? Vietnam era pilots in the air reported a successful SAM engagement. The plane broke in 2 before crashing to the water, in an apparent mode similar to a CW warhead on a trailer mounted SAM. Back in the days before 911, it would have been easy for an offshore freighter to smuggle in a SAM system and set it up on deck. Remember, Bin Laden has a whole fleet of merchant ships dedicated to mayhem. A submarine could just as easily set up off an airport with shoulder fired missiles and carry out real maynem.

Given the extreme level of security given to innocent merchantmen entering US waters, a threat such as a submarine should be given serious attention. This is not a waste of US Navy resources, but rather exactly what the US Navy is supposed to do. unless one considers power projection to be the sole mission of the USN.

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blight January 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm

The alternative is lugging drugs overland through five or six different countries and paying bribes every step of the way. If the narco subs can hop along from supply point to supply point along the beach, or god forbid go blue water and go direct from point to point in the open ocean it would cut out a lot of middlemen and lower the risks of confiscation, either by rival gangs or by customs officials.

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tperk789 January 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm

gives new meaning to: "We all live in a yellow-submarine." The Beatles must have foresaw this when one of them was in a Heroin induced song-writing muse!

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arias January 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Here is a kick in the nuts that would bring down every drug lord, make drugs legal and heavily taxed.

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olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Yeah the drug lords might be in financial trouble but what about the people? There is a reason the crap is illegal genius.
Just because the world is in moral decline doesn't make making drugs legal a good decision.

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Spike January 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Get real; drugs are legal and heavily taxed.

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SSN596in85 January 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

The best ASW platform is another submarine. But we could use a cheaper torpedo than the MK48 adcap to kill these boats. If I were a submariner, I'd be excited about the opportunity to engage and eliminate these types of targets. No government will protest and no one would ever know….

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olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm
Terresa January 17, 2011 at 12:07 am

somewhere a bell goes off that reminds me that the military may not be used to for law enforcement puroses ….. it's a constitutional thing. I'm not personally opposed. I think they should drop charges on the bastards ….. just saying …….

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TLAM Strike January 17, 2011 at 11:15 am

That is called the Posse Comitatus Act. In situations such as this USCG LEDETs or the Colombians, Mexicans, or whatever actually board and search the ship.

Basically as I understand it the Navy can locate, track and order to stop a smuggler but the Coast Guard must board it to search and arrest them.

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UpDopler January 17, 2011 at 11:57 am

But there is nothing that says we can't transfer intel.

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oldsalt043 January 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

CG embarks a DOG (Deploy able operations group) on the Navy surface asset and that takes care of the legal aspect, the BTM's (Boarding team members) are very good at
what they do augmenting the team with shipboard billeted hands

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blight January 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

It might be a simple matter of sheep-dipping Navy ASW units into the coast guard; which do have law enforcement responsibilities.

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olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

And what if the DEA or coast guard had it's own mini navy complete with attack submarines compliments of the US Navy?

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blight January 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm

The coast guard of pre-9/11 that isn't involved in SAR is basically paramilitary to fight drug dealers.

Coast Guard vessels have always been at least lightly armed, so its not like there are rules that say Coast Guard vessels cannot have fighting capability. Also, it's not like there are Constitutional rules that say the Revenue Service (predating the coast guard) can only have certain types of boats and certain types of weapons.

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TLAM Strike January 19, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Completely correct the High Endurance Cutters during the cold war era were as well armed as some destroyers. They had Harpoons and ASW Torpedoes.

There was a time (WWII and soon after that) when the Coast Guard was the best in the US Military at shallow water ASW. Sadly that capability has been lost.

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Tony C January 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm

The best way to force the sub to the surface is to use depth charges in a pattern around the sub. If the sub dives to get away, then it is probably a military sub. The Narco subs can't dive too deep or they would have to be very expensive to build. The depth charges would make the crew panic and want to abandon ship. They would come to the surface to do that.

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olternaut January 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm

They should send some of the US Navy's attack submarines to track and destroy the 3rd gen "narco-subs".
The opposition might then have to resort to hiring professional mercenary navy personnel to command armed subs willing to destroy US subs. Keep track of this story. It ought to get more interesting over time.

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GeorgeW6 January 18, 2011 at 1:20 am

What else can we think up to spend money on? My guess is the Navy jumped on this one to keep a few more planes flying in rather cushy areas. In the cold war, when Navy anti-sub project costs came up in Congress, the Navy would quickly respond with a report spotting Soviet Union subs right off the Eastern seaboard. Wouldn’t it be better to let the drug-addicts have their kicks and not turn this country into some kind of narco amusement park? Let the drugs in, tax them just enough not to make it lucrative for traffickers to sell non-taxed drugs, and teach kids and adults that there really are lousy consequences to using drug. Don’t put them in prison, either, where they can live for free as we pay tens of thousands a year for their prison housing. Show them consequences that maybe do not put you in prison, but mess up your life in really bad ways. In the not too distant future we would see major declines in drug use, IMHO. Just my thoughts to add to the conversation.

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Subutai January 18, 2011 at 2:04 am

Would the Coast Guard be providing an escort and a 21 gun salute if those same subs were carrying cigarettes and booze? The war on drugs is a war against civilians who are responding to a free market. Drug users are idiots, but isn't that their choice in a free society? How can we be for freedom and a smaller government, if we must use armed force to dictate what you can and can't ingest? Sure, we can be like Iran and hang drug traffickers. Has that been any more successful? War is the most serious business a society can engage in, and should be used only as a last resort. Those P3's could be much better used off the coast of countries like North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen or Somalia, places where real bad guys are operating.

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Subutai January 18, 2011 at 2:22 am

Using P3's with ASW gear against civilians is a bad idea. It opens the door to misusing the military to fix social problems. Will we also be using Predators against illegal immigrants? Hellfire missiles against drunk drivers? Counter sniper fire to stop poaching? Fast Attack subs to stop illegal fishing boats? Motorized rifle companies to respond to wife beaters? I'm sure lots of you will say yes, and therein lies my point… our founding fathers were quite clear about the matter, and it's worked fine for hundreds of years. We need to be mighty careful who we tag with the dreaded "terrorist" label, and take a page from the French and Chinese revolutions, where sooner or later everyone is suspect, and the enemy becomes you and I.

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Maxtrue January 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/01/0118fi

as far as the last comments, as long as there is connection between narco-terrorists and the ME, interdiction is a top priority…… the fears stated above are quite absurd.

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JPN January 19, 2011 at 6:57 am

It's economics!!! The thing is that drug business is a very lucrative one. And one way of keeping it lucrative is to make it illegal. If governments would legalize it, it would ruin the profits of the druglords of Africa and South America and Asia; and would even more ruin the profits of their bosses in North America and Europe. Of course i would like to erradicate every drug dealer in the world and that i'd love to see brute force used by a P3 to sink a narco-sub; but i know that that would be a needle in an haystack. For me the solution relies on education and providing young people "individual psycological defense weapons", so that they say no to drugs. When the need for drugs starts to disappear, then we will be starting to win this so-called war.

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surveyor47 January 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

Has anyone here ever heard of ISPS International Port Security System? On a daily basis, merchant crews are subject to search, inspection and are usually restricted to the ship. Port workers go through at least 2 levels of security daily. Port workers are subject to background checks, searches and monitoring.. We are going to very great lengths to ensure that our ports are secure.

The attitude that a submarine supposedly full of some "happy juice" approaching the coast of the US not being a threat is both absurd and makes a joke of the sacrifies made by merchant seamen and port workers. Theattitude that interdiction of this threat is somehow unworthy of the USN or P3 crews is simply crazy.

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FRANKC January 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm

As a former ASW equipment operator on P3s, I find the article interesting. Unless our tactics and technology has taken a step backwards, finding and identifying ANY submerged vessel is highly likely. If it is one of our subs, we can't find it. If it is one of the foreign military subs, we can easily keep trck of it. If it is a sub being used for some other purpose, the purpose is a threat. With all due respect to the posters that find legalizing drugs is the answer, or fear military action violates someone's "rights", it stands to reason that an unidentified vessel attempting to enter U.S. waters should be dealt with as a threat to our security. Find it, track it, and dispose of it.

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JPN January 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

Absolutly. Legalize and educate (eliminating the need for drugs); and meanwhile treat it as the menace it is for the citizens

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blight January 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Legalize, but bring out Taliban-esque virtue police to beat people who are inebriated in public, be they on alcohol or cocaine.

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Anonymous February 10, 2011 at 6:56 am

Or just send CAP back to its roots and have them do it, freeing up the military to do what it needs to do. CAP can do it a heck of a lot cheaper too…

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George Jacobs January 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm

You'll have to include your toes. Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina all own and operate diesel boats.

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TLAM Strike January 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Also Cuba is also operating some new class of Midget Submarine. Tentatively identified as ‘Delfin’ class.

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asdf January 15, 2011 at 7:53 am

why is a MAD useless?

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Marcase January 18, 2011 at 1:29 am

Good point, was just listing what kit is/was standard available.

Then there are the various CUP upgrades of course with that 'special' modification.
Nuff said.

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TLAM Strike January 15, 2011 at 10:41 am

LOL!
Who ya gonna call? P-3s!!
They are making a 3rd Sequel last I heard…

But no, Vigo as in the Spanish port city on the Atlantic Coast where the submarine was captured.

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blight January 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Again, the issue is detection. If you can't cover an ocean and detect the sub, it doesn't matter what system you use to force it to the surface, or destroy it.

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blight January 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Forgot to note that PLAN has ~12 Kilos, which would make life rather interesting.

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UpDopler January 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I said MAD/SAD is useless in a search. Not that the system is useless as a system. It has its place in ASW.
MAD will "hit" on any ferrous metal under the water, a large ore deposit, a sunken ship, etc.
MAD can be used in the tracking portion of an exercise very effectily, but searching? might as well burn gas chasing your shadow on the water.

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crackedlenses January 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Don't bother. I was poking at your inference that enforcing the law is a waste of money. We have enough problems with drunk drivers; do you really want to add stoned drivers to the mix?….

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ohwilleke January 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm

But, in any one place, not all of these nations are going to have subs. Probably not many Canadian or Peruvian or Chilean subs in the South Atlantic or Gulf, for example.

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ohwilleke January 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Maybe something, but probably not a Harpoon missile or torpedo equivalent.

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