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News | April 8, 2024

USS Leyte Gulf Takes Down Semi-Submersible Vessel


The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), with an embarked U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), has made multiple drug interdictions in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of operations (AOR).

In March, while on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean, the crew detected a self-propelled semi-submersible drug smuggling vessel (SPSS). With assistance from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 50, the crew acquired the location of the SPSS and LEDET members launched a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to intercept the vessel. The LEDET detained the individuals aboard the SPSS and seized approximately 2,370 kilograms of cocaine. Then the crew conducted a sinking exercise (SINKEX) on the SPSS.

“Spotting this vessel was like finding a needle in the haystack,” said Lt. Commander Travis Lee, Leyte Gulf’s senior aviator. “I’ve been doing this for seven years and not once been able to find and acquire such an asset until now.”

Taking down the SPSS was only the latest success for USS Leyte Gulf on this deployment.

In February, while on patrol in the Caribbean Sea, the ship intercepted three different vessels using coordinated air and surface operations involving both U.S. and partner nation forces.

During the interdictions, the LEDET boarded and took positive control of each vessel. On Feb. 6, the ship recovered 520 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $12.8 million. On Feb. 15, they recovered 600 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $15.25 million. Then on Feb. 28, the crew recovered another 600 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $15 million.

“Our Leyte Gulf team was ready when called upon to execute all three interdictions,” said Commanding Officer Capt. Nathan Diaz. “The successful seizure of more than $42 million in illicit drugs is a testament to the interoperability of our partner nations, the Coast Guard and the Leyte Gulf team.”

“It was an exciting day to be the Officer of the Deck running the bridge for one of our interdiction operations,” said Lt. j.g. Jayden Hodgson, an officer of the deck and public affairs officer aboard the ship. “Leyte Gulf prevented the illicit importation of drugs that day and we are only getting started.”

USS Leyte Gulf is currently deployed in the USSOUTHCOM AOR to support bilateral and multinational maritime operations with partners in the region, conduct Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) port visits, and to support JIATF-South in countering illicit-drug trafficking.

LEDETs are deployable specialized forces of the U.S. Coast Guard that enforce U.S. laws and treaties in the maritime domain.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.

Learn more about USNAVSOUTH/4th Fleet at, and @NAVSOUS4THFLT.