US Navy LCS to hunt for drug smugglers in Latin America

US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Bowser
US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Bowser – The Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City

The US Navy is set to deploy one of its new littoral combat ships (LCS) to Latin America to conduct counter-narcotics patrols later this year, the head of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has confirmed.

Admiral Craig Faller told US lawmakers that the vessel will operate in the waters of SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) with an embarked US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) for the duration of the patrols.

Faller, during a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, called the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States “a national security crisis” and so has requested the deployment of the LCS to help fill capability gaps within SOUTHCOM.

Although SOUTHCOM conducted a record number of drug seizures in 2017 and 2018, Faller concedes that much remains to be done to effectively cut off the narcotics supply lines from Latin America.

The decision to deploy one of the navy’s newest warships comes after it has been confirmed that drug traffickers in the region have been resorting to submersibles, co-opted fishing vessels, and new routes to avoid detection.

Faller added that the LCS, which has not been identified, will also perform other missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) and counter-terrorism support in the countries within SOUTHCOM’s AOR.

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!