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Drug Smugglers use Mini-Submarines

On 13 July 2001 the US Coast Guard managed to seize a drug smuggling mini-submarine off the coast of Honduras, which carried a cargo of some 8.8 t cocaine with a market value of about 180 Mio. USD. During the seizure the submarine was sunk, the crew of 5, however, could be rescued, and the cargo of cocaine could be secured.

The use of mini-submarines for smuggling drugs by the Columbians drug cartels became public about 10 years ago and the vessels employed are getting more and more advanced technologically. In the early years there were bold makeshift boats or take-overs from other countries, such as ex-Soviet mini-subs. Today, a third generation of such boats can be observed, which use fiber glass material for their construction, each boat costs about 2 Mio. USD.

Their actual number is estimated to be between 70 and 80 units. These modern largely steel made submarines are reported to have a length of about 30 m, are propelled by two hybrid electro-engines, and can take on board up to 10 tons of cargo. Their crew is 4 to 5 men and their range is said to be up to 8,000 km. Meanwhile, the submarines are real diving subs being able to proceed submerged at longer distances, diving depths, how-ever, is not to be greater than about 10 m. The main traffiking routes are between Columbian ports at the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and Mexico and take 8 to 9 days.

During the ongoing fight against drug traffiking several mini-subs have been discovered already. After a first seizure of 3 submarines in 2006 another boat was captured in 2008 in Mexico and another one in 2010 in Ecuador. TV documentary channel “National Geographic” has presented a comprehensive report about these submarines and their world on 17, 18 and 21 August 2011. Pictures from cocaine mini-subs can be viewed under www.welt.de of 18 July.2011.

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First Combat Engagement by US SSGNs

Acting in compliance with UN Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011 against the regime of Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi and his military infrastructure to prevent further oppression of his people, the US Navy employed for a first time a SSGN in combat mission in the Mediterranean Sea. As part of Operation “Odyssey Dawn” USS Florida, converted from SSBN to SSGN, fired in anger on 19 March 2011 cruise missiles against military targets ashore. It is reported that more than 100 UGM-109 “Tomahawk Block IV” were launched that day.

USS Florida (SSGN 728) and three more SSBNs (USS Ohio/ SSGN 726, USS Michigan/ SSGN 727 and USS Georgia/ SSGN 729) were re-commissioned after their conversion to SSGNs, USS Ohio being the first at the end of 2005 and USS Georgia being the last in 2008.

Since 1981, some 18 “Ohio”-Class SSBN were commissioned, replacing the strategic submarines of the “George Washington”- and “Ethan Allen”-Class, the service time is scheduled to last meanwhile 40 years, including a midlife-conversion after 20 years. These nuclear propelled submarines maintain the backbone of the US nuclear deterrent, their displacement is about 16,700 t surfaced and 18,700 t submerged, they have a length of about 170 m, a beam of 12,8 m and a speed underwater of more than 25 kn, their crew is 155 men. They can carry 24 MIRV-capable SLBMs and they have 4 torpedo tubes. The modified SSGN version can travel more than 600 nmi/ 1,100 km per day and take on board up to 154 cruise missiles of Type UGM-109 “Tomahawk” with their 450 kg warhead, which have a range of up to 1,600 km and are re-programmable during flight.