Drug interdiction is not something the USAF has heavy involvement in, but could their role be increasing? It will be if 12th Air Force (AF) commander, Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, has any say. We doubt this will ever be a requirement, but his thinking is; if we’re already training in the area, why not get involved if we see something nefarious going on? We agree with that line of thinking, but it just seems like something that shouldn’t be a top priority for 12th AF assets with the current state of the USAF. What do you think?
As the drug smugglers’ go-fast boat streaked across the blue Caribbean Sea in March, carrying more than a thousand pounds of cocaine toward its U.S. destination, they were completely unaware they were being observed from above.
Suddenly, they felt a presence and looked up. Coming at them, low and fast, was the unmistakeable silhouette of one of the nastiest weapons in the Air Force arsenal — a B-1B Lancer, the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force.
In a panic, the smugglers scrambled to retrieve all the packages of cocaine aboard and then dumped them over the side, like million dollar buoys spreading out in their wake.
“Think about it,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force under Air Combat Command, and of Air Forces Southern. “If you’re in the middle of the Caribbean in a go-fast — 40 feet long, four or five 250-horsepower engines — and suddenly a bomber comes out of nowhere and flies over the top of your vessel? It’ll get your attention, to put it mildly.”
That B-1 bomber wasn’t there to blow them out of the water. In fact it was on a routine training mission, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at an April 15 roundtable briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. But when the bomber’s crew saw the vessel, they thought it looked suspicious and took a low-level pass to check it out. The fearful smugglers threw an estimated 500 kilos of cocaine overboard.