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Video: Narco Sub Intercepted

by John Reed on August 2, 2011

Check out this video of the U.S. Coast Guard scrambling to seize this narco-sub with seven tons or $180 million worth of cocaine before the semi submersible sinks after being scuttled. This one was found with the help of a Customs and Border Patrol aircraft, most likely an ex-Navy P-3 Orion subhunter. P-3s operated by both CBP and the U.S. Navy are becoming an increasingly important tool for intercepting maritime drug runners due to the advent of fully submersible narco-subs like this one.

Watch as the crew scrambles off and the vessel sinks in the Caribbean sea off the coast of Honduras. An FBI dive team later recovered the massive shipment of cocaine.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

brian August 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

I think the amazing thing is that the Narco lords can make subs that can traverse the Caribbean with a tons of cargo for a cost and still sell the cocaine at an obscene profit. If the US Navy had built these subs, they would have 10x the capability, half the range, a 10th of the cargo and cost about $500 million a pop.


blight August 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Well, the crew of these narco subs are basically expendable.


brian August 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Blight, yes of course the people are expendable, but the cargo isn't, therefore the sub would be safe. It would be crazy to load up a $100 cargo and hope it get there a wing and a prayer.


blight August 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Uhh, that's exactly what they do. They've brute-forced their cargo into the US for decades, and written off the cost of losing equipment as part of doing business. There's a reason why the price of drugs has been going up: one for profit, and two to offset delivery costs.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

The price of drugs in the US has been going down. Do a little research and you find that drugs are now cheaper and there is easier access to them than they have been sense the 1950s. The billions we spend on this is wasted money.

cthel August 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

but as a result, would they be able to get through undetected?


TLAM Strike August 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Recent reports from a West African Navy (forget which) have indicated that they have built subs that can travel the Atlantic.

They sail from Columbia's east coast and make landfall on one of West Africa's islands and transfer their cargo to another ship or submarine for delivery to Europe.
There was a locally designed (not-Colombian) narco submarine captured in 2006 in Spain that backs this up somewhat


blight August 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

The Wikipedia article on narco subs refers to using fishing buoys to hide submersible cargo containers, detached from otherwise legitimate fishing boats. Submarines are just one component of getting drugs from point A to point B.

In the long term, the Colombians need to figure out how to grow coca somewhere in the states.


James Haney September 8, 2013 at 11:01 am

still do not understand why they save the crews, start sending a few rounds down range to sink it then sail away


apollolanding August 2, 2011 at 11:03 am

My nephew was the lead member of the RHIB boarding team. Couldn't be prouder of him.


Black Owl August 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

The sweet smell of victory: soaking wet cocaine. Good job guys.


Brian August 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I think it was all headed to Charlie Sheen's house.


Big Guy August 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm



blight August 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Military should get into the distribution business. Step up patrols, sell the seized product, use it to buy more maritime patrol aircraft and private border security guards. Gradually transition our counter-drug efforts in Latin America into a drug-kingpin seizure enterprise, and use the hired guns as security. We can be America the narco-empire, the Saudis of cocaine. Think of the possibilities.

Or not.


Matrix_3692 August 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

hell not!


blight August 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Economies of scale is getting out of hand. Remember the Midwest can theoretically feed the planet, and it's not even that big. With modern tech, how much drugs can you crank out to supply world demand…?


OMEGATALON August 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Whoever designed and built these submarines are in the wrong line of business as instead of building for drug smugglers who may kill them if the shipment doesn't get through, they should consider going into the Defense business as there are a number of countries who want small submarines for coastal defense.


blight August 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

We should just jail all the narco-sub crew in Gitmo and call it a day. Hell, jail everyone caught in the narco-war in Gitmo. Offer to jail people for Mexico: especially since it eliminates a great deal of risk from Mexican jail wardens if they don't have to hang onto high value targets, and be forced to free them at risk to their own lives.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

So we can spend billions on jailing people and have it reduce the drug problem by zero. Why would we want to spend out tax money on that exactly?


blight August 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

Because America is good at throwing people in jail? I could throw out a pithy hysterical statement about "but what if these gangsters are out on the streets, think of the children" but the readers of DefTech are unlikely to fall for such things.


kim August 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

Better yet, how about sending everybody who BUYS drugs to Gitmo?


RioDulce August 3, 2011 at 12:37 am

TLAM Strike is correct. The Latin Americans are very family oriented. When the drug cartel tells you to deliver the drugs or your whole family dies, even Grandma, you do what they say!


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 8:06 am

$180 million in coke seized, costing the US tax payer millions of dollars to do, reducing the amount of drugs in the country by so little the price will not change, all while risking the lives of US service men and women. Glad to see we know how to throw our tax payer money away.


blight August 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

If we opened the doors to drugs, the price would theoretically drop as the streets are awash in drugs. With the price crash, the cartels would massively scale back production until the price could go back up. By then, recreational chemists with coca plants in greenhouses would probably be putting out niche product, then combine to form co-ops while pharma companies slowly go through a ten year NDA process to make cocaine tablets, inhalers and the like.

And in all that time, the cartels still have narco-subs, speedboats, judges, cops and soldiers on the rolls, drug tunnels, a powerful distribution network and the trained killers to drop bodies on their command. Powerful advantages that skew a free market in their favor.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

That's the exact same logic they used to try to justify the continuation of the last prohibition the US had. Turns out that when they legalized alcohol (The most deadly drug on the planet by all statistics), the price did not drop, the number of people drinking didn't really go up, but the number of violent crimes dropped through the floor. ( ~4000% drop in Chicago violent crimes the year after legalization). See what happens to a group of people that have a product they produce after it's legalized is that they become businessmen without a need for armies of thugs.


blight August 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Yes, but in prohibition the alcohol making infrastructure did not disappear on a global level, so while companies may have gone bust it would be a matter of transferring engineers from Canada (where alcohol was still legal) and bringing plants online.

In our case, we have no drug-making infrastructure anywhere to use as our basis for legal cocaine…though if we turn the spigot on marijuana the situation will be close to the post-prohibition alcohol example.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Have you ever looked at how easy it is to process cocaine? Honestly if completely uneducated people can do it in huts without water or power in middle of the jungle how hard do you think it would be to setup shop somewhere in the US? So the drug lords can try and keep the prices high, but if they do within a few months they will be under cut by someone doing the growing and processing somewhere else. These are the most simple and obvious rules of capitalism. We should let it work.

kim August 8, 2011 at 11:27 am

Buy Colombian land.

Shail August 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

For a supposed War on Drugs,
it's too bad the standing order of the US government isn't
to seize any money (goes to whichever military branch or DoHS seized it),
then sink the vessel and its drug cargo with gunfire.

Nothing more to see here, just a training exercise.
Target was neutralized.
Move along now.


blight August 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm

We're not seizing money, we're seizing cocaine. Not like the military can sell it on the market and get market rates (though think of what you could buy after busting a few narco subs!)

If government was in the drug business, it would be regressive money allocation back to the government.


Shail August 4, 2011 at 7:59 am

But that's just it: we shouldn't be seizing drugs at sea at all.
We should be sinking the sh*t.

Let it dissolve and dilute away in the saltwater.
What's the worst that could happen? Greenpeace gets all hissy because whales and seals on migratory routes suddenly start following USCG vessels around, hoping to get a fix for that craving?


Ragin Cajun August 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I wonder where this took place? Notice the current, and the boat trying to fight it to stay next to the sub. Unless this was in a bay and the tide was going in/out, this might have been a river somewhere.


Black Owl August 3, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I'm wondering at what price it will take for them to mount little torpedos and weapons on these submarines.


blight August 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Why? When you start bringing weapons into the mix, it will trigger America's "scare mode" and cause the Navy to rain on your parade, and not just the Coast Guard with some Navy support and the DEA. There is nothing to be gained by provoking the Navy with a shooting war.


Ziv August 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm

The American people are voting for drugs, we are dragging the economies of Mexico and Columbia down because it is illegal. Lets legalize the drug trade, move as much of it as possible to the US and let our druggies buy their drugs at a lower price, and let them buy an American version of cocaine or marijuana rather than forcing our druggies to buy foreign, second rate, drugs!
America could be the China of drugs within a year or two, but we could make a better product and still sell it cheaper!
Just kidding. Kind of.


blight August 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm

History is doing a special on the cocaine business, and right now is going over the Colombian minisubs. Apparently the first one was captured in 1993…?


blight August 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

Yes it will. Perceived scarcity and increase of costs required to ship per kilo.

Escobar was so rich that he hoarded his cash stash in warehouses and lost a few percent a year to literal spoilage (dollar bills damaged by water, theft, bugs, fire, etc).


blight August 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

We bagged a lot of "Taliban" in Afghanistan who turned out to not be Taliban, but we're still holding them. Then again, this is kind of Bush-era "logic" I'm using in my original post.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Except that the cost of drugs keeps going down. We now spend $40 billion a year on drug enforcement and drugs are cheaper now than they ever have been. Why are we continuing to support a failed policy?

Just got to google and search for 'street cost of drugs over time' or really anything similar to that. Click through a few of the links and read the actual data. For example the cost of Cocaine was around $224 a gram in 1990 but is now around $106 a gram.


blight August 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Are we talking end consumer prices after normalizing for "cutting" product? Or the bulk "price" that a dealer pays, or middlemen? Or the cost incurred by the growers to process their material and send it off?

In the case of the latter, economies of scale and modern tech helps a lot in bringing the price down even as seizures go up. And maybe the seizure rates are so low that it makes no real difference…


blight August 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm


Essentially correct, though your numbers vary a bit from above (inflation?)
Still not sure we should be letting things become legal because it's cost-effective to do so. Then again, the real answer is probably somewhere between free market and forbidden fruit.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I say legalize it for a number of reasons. 1) It's saves Billions in tax payer money 2) it allows law enforcement to concentrate on crimes against people and property instead of mortality. 3) Despite the money spent the number of drug users in the US is not going down (IE wasted money) 4) studies have shown the legalization does not increase the number of drug users 5) studies have shown the treatment instead of incarceration is far more effective in combating addiction (Treatment can be paid with tax revenue from the regulation of said drugs) 6) reduce the amount of violent crime making America and the world safer. 7) what we are doing now doesn't work, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


nraddin August 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm

The seizure rates are so low they make no difference. $40 billion a year and they get more in now than ever.


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