USNS Persistent Makes First
By Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NWS) A high-speed boat chase off the coast of
Cuba earlier this month ended with the U.S. Coast Guard opening
fire on a suspected drug runner's boat and the first narcotics seizure
for Military Sealift Command (MSC) ocean surveillance ship USNS
Persistent (T-AGOS 6). Persistent, operating as a platform for a
U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, was on joint drug interdiction
patrols with three U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels in the Caribbean.
The interdiction began when a Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft's
radar detected a speedboat headed north toward Florida. Coming from
the direction of Jamaica, the suspect boat was cruising north in
Cuban waters to evade law enforcement in international waters. The
P-3 alerted the Coast Guard detachment aboard Persistent, which
was patrolling the Caribbean area with three 110-foot U.S. Coast
Guard patrol boats. The Coast Guard patrol boats positioned themselves
north of the speedboat's expected route, and when it emerged from
Cuban waters the "wolf pack" was waiting.
Upon spotting the Coast Guard, the speedboat turned back into Cuban
waters, and the drug interdiction team of ships continued tracking
and repositioning. When the speedboat emerged again and tried to
outrun the patrol boats, Coast Guard law enforcement officials fired
warning shots over the bow, and in one attempt hit and disabled
the speedboat's engines with M-16 rounds.
Cornered and disabled, the drug smugglers began throwing their
contraband cargo overboard. Persistent's Coast Guard detachment
was embarked with two deployable high-speed pursuit boats, which
they used to retrieve the contraband from the water. U.S. Coast
Guard cutter Tampa apprehended the three drug smugglers. The interdiction
yielded a total of 5,000 pounds of marijuana and 300 pounds of hashish
oil. Persistent transported the suspects and the cargo back to Miami
and has returned to her Caribbean counter-narcotics surveillance
USNS Persistent is one of two of MSC's ocean surveillance ships,
formerly used for submarine detection that are now serving as operating
platforms for counter- narcotics operations. Sister ship USNS Vindicator
(T-AGOS 3) operates out of San Diego, also supporting the U.S. Coast
The U.S. Navy has been augmenting the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs
Service in drug interdiction since the 1980s. Persistent joined
the counter-narcotics mission in early calendar year 2000.
Military Sealift Command is the ocean transportation provider for
the Department of Defense. The command, part of the U.S. Navy, operates
more than 110 active ships around the world. Ship missions vary
from the transport and afloat prepositioning of defense cargo; to
underway replenishment and other direct support to Navy ships at
sea; to at-sea data collection for the U.S. military and other U.S.
For more information about Military Sealift Command, go to their
web site at http://www.msc.navy.mil.