Eyes in the Skies on Operation CARIBBE

A CP-140 Aurora aircraft flies during Operation CARIBBE, 22 November 2018. ***Un aéronef CP-140 Aurora vole pendant l'opération CARIBBE, le 22 novembre 2018.

By Captain Annie Morin, Public Affairs Officer on Op CARIBBE

Note: This article is about the deployment of the CP-140 Aurora in spring 2019.

Achieving success interdicting illicit trafficking is a complex operation and a collective effort on Operation CARIBBE. Deployed on the operation, the Air Task Force detachment has had one goal in mind: detect vessels of interest suspected of smuggling illicit narcotics. Soon after the detachment arrived in theatre, they already had a detection that led to a successful boarding under their belt.

Working with ships deployed under the U.S.-led Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS), the Air Task Force detachment was assigned to fly over specific areas in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability.

On April 18, 2019, the CP-140 Aurora from 405 Maritime Patrol Squadron was assigned a search area. It was specifically instructed to focus on certain types of vessels that could potentially be smuggling illicit narcotics.  Within a few hours into the mission, the Maritime Patrol Aircraft identified one vessel that was assessed as suspicious, according to the description provided.

The CP-140’s role was to maintain eyes on the suspect vessel without being seen until a JIATFS vessel could perform a boarding. Remaining hidden from the suspect vessel was a crucial part of their role since being spotted could have jeopardized the success of the mission. When the CP-140 reached its limit for remaining in the air, they returned to the base. A United States P-8 aircraft continued tracking the potential smuggling vessel until the United States Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton could perform a boarding.  The vessel was indeed carrying drugs and the Aurora crew was credited for the interdiction. 680kg of cocaine was found onboard the smuggling vessel, a success not only for the Air Task Force detachment but also for the overall efforts against illicit trafficking.

“This is an important achievement for the CP-140.  It means that our men and women are doing an incredible job to keep drugs away from North America.  Anytime that we deter or interdict the movement of drugs northbound, it’s a good day for Canada’s contribution to Op MARTILLO,” said Major Guillaume Paquet, Air Task Force Commander for Op CARIBBE.

Comprised of 23 Canadian Armed Forces personnel and one member of the United States Coast Guard, the Air Task Force detachment deployed on Op CARIBBE is based out of Comalapa, El Salvador. It includes a CP-140 Aurora.

Operation CARIBBE is Canada’s contribution to Operation MARTILLO. The U.S. JIATFS operation aims to conduct interagency and international detection, monitor operations and facilitate the interdiction of illicit trafficking.

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