Putting the Brakes on Go-Fast Boats

Coast Guard’s HC-144A aircraft’s C4ISR system leads to the seizure of $29 million worth of cocaine


HC-144A-2_680 A U.S. Coast Guard HC-144A equipped with a C4ISR mission pallet developed by Lockheed Martin detected a suspected drug smuggling go-fast boat off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic that led to the seizure of $29 million worth of cocaine. Photo courtesy USCG.

The origin of go-fast boats dates back to the days of prohibition in the United States.  Smugglers used these high-speed “rum runners” to avoid capture by the slower U.S. Coast Guard cutters and transport their contraband to shore.

Today, go-fast boats remain popular among drug traffickers, but as four suspected Columbian smugglers found out recently, they are no match for the  Coast Guard’s HC-144A Ocean Sentry Medium Range Surveillance aircraft.

Using the Coast Guard’s advanced Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) mission pallet  developed by Lockheed Martin, the HC-144A’s crew spotted the 36-foot go-fast boat on the evening of Aug. 19 in the Caribbean Sea off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.

The Coast Guard dispatched the cutter Campbell to intercept the suspected drug runners, while the Dominican Republic navy sent additional vessels. The HC-144A, along with a Customs and Border Protection aircraft, continued to track the go-fast boat overnight and guided the Campbell’s crew in for the interdiction.

The next day after a two-hour chase, the Coast Guard boarded the go-fast boat, arrested the four suspects and recovered 44 bales of what later was determined to be cocaine weighing 2,420 pounds with an estimated wholesale value of $29 million.

"This interdiction was a result of outstanding teamwork between responding U.S. and partner Dominican Republic law enforcement authorities," said Cmdr. Kurt Virkaitis, the Campbell’s commanding officer. "By combining our resources in a well coordinated effort we successfully prevented a large drug shipment from reaching U.S. shores and are bringing four suspected drug smugglers to justice."

Lockheed Martin developed and integrated the aviation mission system for the Coast Guard’s HC-144A and HC- 130J aircraft, as well as the C4ISR systems for the National Security Cutter. The systems improve maritime awareness by providing better and more precise information, and their interoperability allows the Coast Guard’s air and sea assets to work with other agencies and organizations.

Posted on September 14, 2012

Related Stories

Coast Guard Reaping C4ISR Benefits

Stratton Joins Coast Guard Ranks, Once More

Mission Impossible? Not for Coast Guard

Related Programs

file The Coast Guard cutter Campbell arrested four suspected drug smugglers and 44 bales of cocaine after their go-fast boat was spotted by a Coast Guard HC-144A Medium Range Surveillance aircraft. Photo courtesy USCG.