It was only a matter of time…

The first ‘confirmed’ Narco-Sub (technically not a submarine, as it can’t submerge, it is a low profile vehicle) has been spotted in Europe.

Atlantic drug submarine

At dawn on Sunday, Spanish police descended on a picturesque bay just north of Vigo, on Spain’s Atlantic coast. The so-called narco-submarine, used for smuggling cocaine, was being abandoned by its crew. They appear to have scuttled it to hide the evidence. Two were arrested and a third suspect was reported to be on the run.

Full article, HERE.

This story is well done, and goes into some of the background of previous ‘finds’ in South America. I know at one time, a number of years ago, there was at least one attempt by the cartels to buy a working submarine from a foreign entity. And they smaller LPVs have been run out of both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of South America at least for 15-20 years. Before, it was sailboats with masts removed, superstructures shaved, and painted blue to match the color of the water.

Who knows how many of these have already gotten through. How many have already made it to Europe?

Lives and drugs are cheap to the Cartels. How many did they send before one made it???


It was only a matter of time… — 17 Comments

  1. Honestly I’m surprised it’s taken this long. I’m reasonably sure that this has been going on for a lot longer. Maybe law enforcement is just finally getting the funds to be able to track/detect them?

  2. Hey Old NFO;

    Like Tolewyn said “surprised that it has taken this long. I am surprised that the cartel hasn’t bought some surplus sub from some 3rd world country where the proper palm can be greased and a blind eye turned. The amount of product the sub could bring it would more than pay for itself on the first trip and if it sunk later because of shoddy maintenance, oh well, life is cheap.

    Excellent article BTW

  3. We, through our cooperatives with various governments in Central and South America, have discovered, I think, at least 2 fully submersible subs. The scary part is the lack of metal on the hulls, which reduces any active sonar return. And, using lots of batteries, they can silent run for quite a while.

    All to traffic drugs.

    The semi-submersibles seem to be one-way expendables here in the west. Though the actual sub-sub looks to have been designed for more than one trip.

    Makes me wonder how many of our attack subs are hanging around listening for these boats. And also makes me wonder if we’ve used the attack boats to sink any of these.

    ASW, it’s not just a nation-state issue any more.

    Maybe the Coast Guard can outfit some S-3s and go sub and semi-sub hunting…

  4. Don’t know about the article because Forbes doesn’t like my ad blocker. (That’s an instant hit of the “back” button for me.)

    As an old submariner, I can assure you that Anti Submarine Warfare is a lot more complex and harder than you think it is. I, personally, have shot more than one green flare into the middle of a carrier battle group – all while they were looking specifically for us. Now, I’ll give you that the boats I was on were a lot more technologically advanced than the narco-subs we’re talking about here. But still, note that most (…not all) of these narco-subs have been caught in their lairs rather than at sea.

    If the narcs could get a hold of a used Kilo class, and crew it, we might not ever know.

    • Rumor had it that a green flare landed on the flight deck of the Connie. Must’ve been exciting. I almost miss being at sea.

    • Run the Scriptsafe extension; it breaks most paywall/anti-adblocker schticks simply by dint of not loading the webpage except bit by bit.

  5. I remember seeing some TV show (Nat’l Geo, maybe) about the narco subs. Most looked pretty crude, but the show was 5 or 6 years ago.

  6. Pffft. The Colombians have been using semi-submersible vessels for 20 years now. Mostly they’re towed behind mother ships, but some of them are self-powered. USCG and the old USCS (now CBP) captured a few of them in the late 90s/early 00s.
    Everything old is new again. (Or maybe “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” These sayings confuse me.)

  7. All- Thanks for the comments. ASW is never easy, but as noisy as these are (basically sailboats), they would be detectable.

    Posted from my iPhone.

  8. Return to the gentlemanly rules of bygone eras: submarines sailing without identification to be taken under fire and sunk on sight as presumed terrorists and pirates. No surrenders authorized nor processed.

    make getting into one a half-way mission, to the bottom of the sea.

    When the return on investment approaches 0%, the narco-traffickers will move on to something less stupid.

    Personally, I’d like to see old P-3s pulled out of mothballs, or current C-130s, with rocket pods, used to detect and sink them, but I’m sentimental that way.

    They want to travel underwater, I say we should oblige them, and grant their wish, in spades.

    • They’re wood and fiberglass; you could just drop pallets full of, say, old copies of the Federal Register on them and knock holes plenty big enough to sink them. 100% post-consumer, carbon-neutral, recycled weaponry, too.

  9. Back in… 2005?… the Mexican Federales and DEA found an abandoned submarine in some marshes in Mexico. It was made mostly of wood and fiberglass (like the ones in “Popular Mechanics” in the 1960s) and appeared to have been abandoned because it was so old the wooden parts were succumbing to rot.

    It had made a *lot* of trips.

    The US Coast Guard and the US Navy both turned up their palms, shrugged, and said there was nothing they could do; their detection technology was based on magnetic signatures or something. With some fresh appropriations they might be persuaded to look into it, but it wasn’t really something they thought was part of their job description.

    So much for the “no sparrow shall fall” observation and interdiction systems they bragged about… makes you wonder how much in the way of nerve agents, biologicals, and nukes the Soviets brought in through that route, now sitting cached conveniently near their targets. Hey, it would have been stupid not to…

  10. Watch “Narcos” on Netflix.
    Pablo Escobar once volunteered to pay off Colombia’s national debt! How could he do that?
    Supply and demand.
    Al Capone…
    Remind me how we resolved that problem.

  11. “Return to the gentlemanly rules of bygone eras: submarines sailing without identification to be taken under fire and sunk on sight as presumed terrorists and pirates. No surrenders authorized nor processed.”

    Of course, that is exactly why Germany went to unrestricted submarine warfare, basically shooting and sinking ships without warning, thus ushering in the end of that “gentlemanly era”.

    So Yeah. Do that to one of the many Russian nukes out there off our coast, (or hell, even one of our own or one of our allies), and lets see how that works out for ya. (Did I mention the green flares into the middle of the CVBG. A CVBG that was already alerted and looking specifically for *us*.)

    Now, I am not saying that these narco-subs are on that same level of technology, but they could be. All it takes is money.

    Nuclear power, probably not. But AIP*, that’s doable, and if they can stay submerged for just a few days, that’s all it would take.

    Just ask Old NFO. Detecting a submerged submarine is not easy. When I was stationed aboard USS Flying Fish (SSN-673), every exercise I was ever on, when working with friendly surface forces, we had an augmented noise generator. The only time we didn’t use the noise generator was when we were exercising with another submarine.

    *AIP – Air Independent Propulsion. Essentially fuel cells – good for about a week underwater. More than enough time.