USS Nicholas Assists Partner Nation Forces

USS Nicholas Assists Partner Nation Forces

Guided missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) assisted partner nation forces with the interdiction of a vessel carrying nearly 2,200 kilograms (4,850 pounds) of cocaine, with an estimated street value of more than $363 million, in the eastern Pacific May 6.

The interdiction was conducted as part of Operation Martillo, a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. ‘Martillo’ is the Spanish word for ‘hammer.’

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion initially detected the speedboat, “El Kike,” and then turned over tracking to a helicopter from Nicholas. The helicopter tracked the suspect “go-fast” vessel until Nicholas was in position to make a coordinated approach with the helicopter. The go-fast vessel then stopped, jettisoned approximately half of its cargo, then turned and made best speed to Colombia.

Nicholas, with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), adjusted course while contacting nearby forces – USS McClusky (FFG 41) and Colombian navy ship ARC 20 de Julio for assistance. A helicopter attached to McClusky maintained surveillance of the go-fast and was able to divert the speedboat into Colombian territorial waters where it was interdicted by the Colombian navy.

“With the help of some friends, we accomplished what we set out to do – disrupt the drug trade,” said Cmdr. Stephen Fuller, commanding officer of Nicholas. “Interdictions are challenging, but with the help of McClusky, [U.S.] Customs, and the Colombian navy, we executed a successful operation.”

U.S. military participation in Operation Martillo is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a component of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government’s coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Naval Today Staff , May 10, 2012; Image: navy