By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
KEY WEST, Fla. , May 30, 2012 – The interdiction of a speedboat carrying almost 5,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value of more than $363 million played out like a motion-picture thriller.
The action followed a carefully choreographed script, from the moment U.S. Customs and Border Protection pilots spotted the speedboat El Kike on May 6 from their P-3 Orion aircraft. They passed the mission to USS Nicholas, a guided-missile frigate patrolling the region with an embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement team. Nicholas dispatched a helicopter to track the speedboat, while maneuvering into position to intercept.
El Kike’s crew, recognizing their plight, jettisoned half of their cargo, then adjusted course and hit the throttle toward Colombia.
Nicholas followed, while calling on the USS McClusky, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, and the Colombian navy ship ARC 20 de Julio operating nearby for assistance. McClusky launched a helicopter to maintain surveillance, diverting El Kike it into Colombian territorial waters, where the Colombian navy intercepted it.
“With the help of some friends, we accomplished what we set out to do: disrupt the drug trade,” said Navy Cdr. Stephen Fuller, Nicholas’ commanding officer. “Interdictions are challenging, but with the help of McClusky, [U.S.] Customs and the Colombian navy, we executed a successful operation.”