MIAMI – The U.S. Air Force will temporarily deploy four aircraft and crews to Curaçao to support enhanced counter-narcotics operations with international partners targeting illicit traffickers in the Caribbean.
Two patrol aircraft, an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) and E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS), supported by two KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, will fly detection and monitoring missions in international airspace to help U.S. and international law enforcement authorities disrupt and defeat transnational criminal organizations trafficking illegal narcotics in the region. Approximately 200 airmen, including aircrews, maintenance technicians, logisticians and administrative personnel will support the operation.
The aircraft will operate from the Curaçao-hosted Cooperative Security Location (CSL), also commonly referred to as a forward operating location, in Willemstad. U.S. Air Force aircraft have previously conducted similar missions from the CSL under a counter narcotics partnership agreement with the governments of Curaçao and the Kingdom of the Netherlands dating back two decades.
Curaçao is a committed regional partner whose longstanding support for multinational counter-drug operations plays a vital role in stemming the flow of deadly narcotics trafficked globally by violent criminal organizations.
This is a national security issue. President Donald Trump announced the enhanced counter-narcotics operations April 1. Since then, the U.S. has collaborated with international partners in more than a dozen Caribbean interdiction events.
To date, U.S. enhanced counter narcotics operations have resulted in the seizure of more than 49 metric tons of cocaine and almost 13,000 pounds of marijuana, an estimated loss of $1.2 billion to transnational criminal organizations. Law enforcement authorities have also detained more than 160 drug smugglers during the operations.
The airmen followed strict COVID-19 prevention and mitigation guidelines while preparing for the deployment and will continue to do so while deployed to the island. To enter Curacao, all personnel will be held to strict medical standards including appropriate screening, masks, and restricted movement on the island for the first 14 days. The U.S. Forward Operating Location in coordination with the Government of Curacao will ensure close monitoring and robust prevention measures (including social distancing) for all US personnel throughout their stay.
Their deployment demonstrates U.S. Southern Command’s enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with its partners. Twenty-two countries support counter-narcotics efforts as part of Joint Interagency Task Force-South. Committed nations contributing to the international effort have been involved in 75 percent of drug interdictions this year.
For decades, transnational criminal organizations have sought to exploit the Caribbean region to traffic narcotics, mainly cocaine, to the United States, Europe and other destinations worldwide. International cooperation against drug trafficking activities in the region denies criminal organizations the ability to establish a foothold, threaten citizen security and undermine lawful communities in the Caribbean.