Drug runners using subs

After watching ‘Mail Call’ (TV show about military) about how the USCG uses armed helicopters to intercept and capture/destroy drug boats called ‘go fasts’, I was wondered why the drug runners could not/ do not build sub’s. For those who don’t know a “go fast” is a boat designed to do exactly that, outrun any USCG boat, usually a cigarette boat outfitted w/ 3 big outboards.

Not the big nuke subs, but more like the German U-Boats. I think they would have the $$$ and it is pretty old technology, but it would seem to be a handy thing to hide underwater during patrols.

Or perhaps they are using this tech already.

IANA military expert, but off the top of my head I would think that submarines are:

  1. hard to acquire
  2. labor-intensive to run
  3. expensive to maintain
  4. slow
  5. more likely to get you in trouble with the US military

Comparatively those cigarette boats only take one guy to operate, are quick, don’t (AFAIK) turn up on radar, and a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to replace than a submarine.

I await the appearance of someone with naval expertise to tell me I’m talking crap.

Old technology for subs - yes. New technology in the form of sophisticated radar - means it would be waaaaay too risky for “them” to try it. Good Idea though.

Check out Robert Sabbag’s Snowblind and find out why submarines aren’t needed. It’s a great read anyhow.

No, these all sound reasonable. Even your fairly small research sub is going to cost in the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars.

Not to mention, submarines, by their nature, require a very skilled crew, particularly if you’re going to be creeping around fairly shallow coastal waters. Even with drug runner salaries, you can’t pick up those guys off the street. With an unskilled crew, subs would be just inherently unsafe.
I think #5 is one of your most salient points. Right now, with the emphais on terrorism, the US military is going to take a * very * dim view of submarines cruising around the coast. If detected (and all it would take is a sighting from a pleasure boat or aircraft), the very best thing that could happen to the smuggler would be getting boarded by Coast Guard cutters and thrown in jail for a very long time. The more likely scenario would involve scenes out of a Tom Clancy novel involving high tech subhunting equipment with the smuggler playing the role of slowly spreading oil slick.

Coasty checking in. And I spent a few years in Miami chasing them guys all over the Caribbean. Anyway, why don’t they use subs? Well, they tried just that! And the odds are, they’ve done it before with smaller subs, and may be doing it now. They have unlimited funding, and the only limit to the method of smuggling is the imagination.

The CG isn’t alone in this - the U.S. Navy patrols those waters as well. (As well as the Royal Navy, and anyone else in the region with an interest). These guys use their SONAR to track surface and subsurface activity, then vector in the resources.

Go fasts are pretty hard to catch, but when the HITRON units came online (armed helos) coupled with “over the horizon” deployable pursuit boats (launched from big slow cutters), it became a lot easier to get them to stop.

Forgot to add: From the linked article

While submarines have been used, they’re a low-efficiency solution. Submarines are expensive, and fairly slow, and require much maintenance to keep them minimally effective. They also require a fairly well-trained (read: Expensive) crew, and require fairly extensive support facilities to build, launch, and service. OTOH, the price of drugs will rise as other means of smuggling become more and more vulnerable to counter measures. Eventually it may yet reach the point where the cost of drugs is high enough to make it worth seriously pursuing submersible drug-running. Efforts to date appear to have been along the lines of feasibility studies, and haven’t produced (that we can tell) any really useful (from the smuggler’s POV) results.

However, semi-submersibles are being used - take a fairly conventional boat, paint it low-observable colors, and ballast it down until it has only a couple inches of freeboard, and run it in under cover of dark. Very hard to spot, and it doesn’t require much in the way of equipment or training. A couple of yahoos off the beach could run one with only a minimal briefing.

      • Friends and I have wondered why drug runners have not started using GPS-equipped robotic airplanes. Really. The stuff to do this is almost off-the-shelf now, the airplanes are small but are autonomous after being launched, and are almost-totally made of composites, which makes it unlikely they would be detected on radar at all. And even if the plane does get caught, none of the drug smugglers would be around to get busted with it. The planes cost a couple thousand bucks to put together and they would be limited in carrying capacity, but the cost is nothing for a drug ring to pay for and overall it’s probably less than what they’d pay people for doing the same job. Send it with drugs one way, send it back with money the other. (It’s probably a good thing that I don’t live in Florida)