In August of 2017, coastal patrol ships USS Zephyr (PC 13) and USS Shamal (PC 8) began their fifth and sixth patrols, respectively, in the Caribbean.
While on patrol, Zephyr and Shamal were tasked with locating, targeting, pursuing, interdicting, and detaining suspected drug runners within the region.
Since the decommissioning of the guided missile frigates, the PCs have been the only consistently operational US naval surface assets available to conduct the counter narcotic mission throughout the Caribbean. Since the start of their first patrols in the fall of 2015, Zephyr and Shamal have accumulated 510 days of employment within theater. Combined they have interdicted and processed 2,480 kilos of cocaine, 2,000 lbs. of marijuana valued at $68.6 million, detained 36 suspected smugglers, and sunk six drug smuggling vessels deemed hazards to navigation.
They embark a Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) from either Pacific or Southern commands, and a Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) of boat coxswains and maintainers from their Houston, Texas or Kings Bay, Ga. commands.
They are equipped with a Coast Guard over-the-horizon rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). The evolved RHIB contains a high capacity engine, a surface search radar, and enhanced communication and navigation suites that allows the TACLET team to conduct interdictions beyond the launching platform’s line of sight.
The Zephyr and Shamal are also outfitted with multiple Pumas, an unmanned remote controlled aircraft, which allow for long range searching and tracking of suspected targets of interest.
On patrol the crews will experience port visits to various islands throughout the Caribbean. While Zephyr and Shamal operate widely throughout the entire Caribbean, they forward stage logistic support and supplies at the USCG Sector in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The support from the USCG Maintenance Assist Team has been crucial in remaining operationally viable as they have assisted in repairing numerous underway limiting casualties.
The Mayport-based ships, under the operational command of Naval Forces Southern Command - Fourth Fleet (C4F), conduct 60-75 day counter illicit trade (CIT) patrols to the Caribbean in support of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S). Their primary mission is to support Operation Martillo in the prevention of illicit trafficking of narcotics, and Operation Unified Resolve, the defense of Puerto Rico’s economic sovereignty in the maritime domain.