Norfolk, Va. – The Norfolk-based guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman and its embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment recovered approximately 630 kg of cocaine in international waters in the drug transit zone of the Eastern Pacific on May 6th. The estimated wholesale value of the drugs is approximately $23 million.
While patrolling in international waters off the coast of Central and South America in support of Operation Martillo, Kauffman’s embarked helicopter squadron spotted suspicious packages in the water. The bales were recovered by grappling hook and brought on board Kauffman for examination. Once on board, the Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment identified the packages as cocaine and took custody of the cargo.
The Kauffman is currently deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Martillo. It is the frigate’s final deployment before being decommissioned.
The cruise has been an eventful one for the ship. Last month it seized $33.9 million worth of cocaine from a freighter in the western Caribbean. In February the ship rescued six stranded fishermen adrift in the western Caribbean Sea after their ship experienced engine trouble
“Today’s seizure would not have been possible without a successful international and interagency effort to provide support to tactical assets, like ourselves and other coalition and interagency assets, positioned to intercept drug traffickers moving their illicit contraband in the Eastern Pacific” said Cmdr. Michael Concannon, commanding officer of USS Kauffman.
Operation Martillo is a joint, international law enforcement and military operation involving the U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations targeting illicit trafficking routes used by criminal organizations in the waters off Central America.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by Joint Interagency Task Force South headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the Eastern Pacific region occur under the tactical control of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support USSOUTHCOM’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.