Cruiser USS Leyte Gulf Makes a Large Cocaine Bust in the Atlantic

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The cruiser USS Leyte Gulf has seized several tonnes of cocaine during a patrol in the Atlantic, according to Navy officials.

In March, as the cruiser was under way in the Atlantic Ocean – not the Pacific or the Caribbean, the usual hotspots for U.S. maritime drug busts – the crew spotted a semisubmersible smuggling boat. The Leyte Gulf’s helicopter aircrew assisted in tracking the boat, and Leyte Gulf’s embarked Coast Guard boarding team launched a RIB to intercept the vessel. 

The Coast Guard team detained the crew of the suspect boat and confiscated about 2,370 kilos of cocaine. Following the seizure, the Leyte Gulf’s crew used the semisubmersible as a target for live-fire training (a “sinking exercise”). 

Lt. Commander Travis Lee, the senior aviator aboard the Leyte Gulf, noted the difficulty in spotting semisub smuggling boats, comparing it to “finding a needle in the haystack.” He added that in his seven years of service, this was the first time he had successfully found a similar target. 

The March interdiction is just the most recent achievement for the USS Leyte Gulf. In February, while patrolling the Caribbean Sea, the ship intercepted three separate vessels in joint actions with the Navy’s partners. The Coast Guard team on Leyte Gulf saw all three intercepts through to their conclusion. The ship recovered 520 kilograms of cocaine on February 6, 600 kilograms on February 15 and another 600 kilos on February 28. 

“It was an exciting day to be the Officer of the Deck running the bridge for one of our interdiction operations,” said Lt. j.g. Jayden Hodgson, an officer of the deck and public affairs officer aboard the ship. “Leyte Gulf prevented the illicit importation of drugs that day and we are only getting started.”

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