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USNS Persistent Makes First Drug Bust
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 operations.

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 Guard.

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. government agencies.

For more information about Military Sealift Command, go to their web site at http://www.msc.navy.mil.red ribbon icon

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