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US Air Force deploying surveillance fleet to Curaçao in support of counter-drug ops

US Air Force file photo of an AWACS aircraft

The US Air Force is temporarily deploying four aircraft and crews to Curaçao to support enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.

The fleet is composed of an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) and an E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS) patrol aircraft, supported by two KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft. They will fly detection and monitoring missions in international airspace to help US and international law enforcement authorities disrupt 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. US 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.

The deployment comes after US president Donald Trump announced the enhanced counter-narcotics operations on April 1. Since then, the US has collaborated with international partners in more than a dozen Caribbean interdiction events.

To date, US 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.