Fighting Drug Smugglers with Bombers

The Air Force is going to coordinate training flights in the Caribbean and Latin America to assist with drug enforcement efforts, sending aircraft such as B-1s and B-52s on flights that could help deter trafficking. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said a B-1 was flying a training sortie in the Caribbean in March, when its sensors picked up a boat in the waters below it. The crew, working with other aircraft and the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, were able to identify it as a “go fast” drug running boat. The Lancer then flew low over the boat, scaring the crew, who then threw about 500 kilograms of cocaine into the water, she said. The Air Force needs to look at “additional ways to replicate” this flight using other training sorties that are being flown anyway, said James. Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, commander of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, said this could include aircraft such as the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, Navy P-8s, and B-1 and B-52 bombers. The aircraft could use sensors to find ships, and then relay that information to Coast Guard ships with the legal authority to interdict. Currently, these flights happen sparingly, but James said she wants to “redouble” efforts to conduct more.