10 Years of Success for CAF on Operation CARIBBE
Article / December 22, 2016 / Project number: cjoc
By: Kaitlin Buttrum, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs
Since 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has contributed to the multinational campaign to counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The 10 years of considerable effort have had an impressive impact; CAF assets have helped to seize or disrupt approximately 66 tonnes of cocaine and just under four tonnes of marijuana. By rough calculation, the US Drug Enforcement Administration assesses this amount’s value at approximately 2.7 billion USD.
According to Lieutenant-Commander Paul Mountford, who deployed this year on Operation CARIBBE as the Commanding Officer of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, Canada helped to fill an important space in the defence and security of North America.
“We provided presence and deterrence in a part of the Caribbean during a time when there were not many Naval or Coast Guard ships available,” he explained. “This meant that we were able to fill a gap and provide a unit that was ready to respond as suspect vessels were detected and determine if they were carrying illicit narcotics.”
The foundations for Operation CARIBBE were laid in 2004, when the US Government asked Canada to provide Canadian Armed Forces assistance to the US-led counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific region. Two years later, Operation CARIBBE began. Canada’s active role in Operation CARIBBE has grown over the years, evolving from a surveillance mission to the surveillance and interdiction mission that it is today.
Since Operation CARIBBE first began, the CAF has deployed ships and submarines 63 times and sailed for a total of 1,881 days in direct support of the mission, each time working closely with the United States Coast Guard, the United States Navy and other allied warships and aircraft. Further, the CAF has deployed CP-140 Aurora long range patrol aircraft 39 times and flown a total of 2,138 hours, providing important surveillance, detection, and disruption capabilities.
In 2012, Operation CARIBBE became Canada's contribution to Operation MARTILLO, an ongoing international task force aimed at drug interdiction and counter smuggling operations in the Caribbean Sea and in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. These efforts are led by the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS); an organization that coordinates the efforts of local, federal, and international forces and provides them with crucial intelligence on international drug traffickers.
Teamwork is crucial to the successful execution of this operation. The CAF works closely with JIATF South, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and other allied nations, including France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The relationship that has grown over the years allows the USCG and the CAF to work together and to suppress illicit traffic. Specifically, the CAF works with USCG Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) who launch from Royal Canadian Navy warships to investigate and board suspect vessels, seize any narcotics, and apprehend smugglers.
Lieutenant-Commander Lucas Kenward, Commanding Officer of HMCS Edmonton, also deployed on Operation CARIBBE this year, described the seamlessness with which the CAF and the LEDETs work together during a drug interdiction:
“When you start an interdiction evolution, everyone quickly shifts their focus,” he explains. “The LEDET prepares their equipment while anyone who is available assists with preparing the rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) for launching. There is a flurry of activity in the Operations Room, where the final positions of the suspect vessel are recorded and updated and communications plans are changed to communicate with any aircraft in the area and, of course, with the RHIB and LEDET.”
Through their training and at-sea experiences, Canadian sailors provide professional support to the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement detachments. “Everyone has a trade of course, and they are all critical to getting the job done,” Lieutenant-Commander Kenward explains.
The cooks keep the crew well fed. Naval combat information operators maintain communications with allied and partner nations as well as with aircraft. Naval communicators establish that all communications equipment is properly configured. And engineers onboard keep everything running smoothly, fixing critical issues that arise onboard so that the mission stays on track.
Detecting drug smugglers on Operation CARIBBE is not a simple task. Along the coast of Central America, several types of smuggling vessels are the target of interdiction and detection performed by the CAF and its allies. These vessels include semi-submersibles (pseudo-submarines that motor just beneath the water’s surface), ‘panga’-style fishing boats, and ‘go-fasts’ (boats with multiple high horsepower outboard engines). The CAF uses anti-surface and sub-surface capabilities, maritime patrol aircraft using RADAR, as well as the reliability of the human eye to locate vessels of interest.
Despite all of the challenges, the CAF continues to contribute significantly to the interdiction of drugs being trafficked through the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. This year, the CAF deployed multiple ships in support of Operation CARIBBE. HMC Ships Brandon, Edmonton, Kingston, Moncton, Summerside, and Saskatoon all patrolled in 2016, assisting in seizing or disrupting approximately 5750kg of cocaine and 1520 kg of marijuana.
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