In the quest to find new ways to evade authorities, Colombian drug smugglers are turning to military technology to build themselves high-speed stealth boats that are harder to detect and catch.
The homemade boats, known as VSV (Very Slender Vehicles) thanks to an extremely narrow hull, resemble a long, dagger-like shape and are akin to that used by Special Forces. Now, for the first time, authorities have discovered drug cartels are using the same technology to run narcotics undetected.
An example of one of the boats was discovered by Guatemalan police, which was left abandoned 23 miles off the country's coast. It is understood that the boat had completed its mission from Colombia and was left to sink as it was no longer required, although the crew had stripped the boat of its navigation system and outboard motor, according to H.I. Sutton of Covert Shores.
Pictures released by the Guatemalan Ministry of Defence show the enormity of the boat along with the relatively rudimentary build, free from any protrusions on its exterior that may be picked up by radar. The boat is approximately 16 metres in length and only 1.75 metres wide, with the estimated capacity for a five-tonne payload. It is believed the VSV could achieve speeds of 20 knots (23mph), which is twice as fast as typical narco-subs.
This new vehicle represents a new direction for the cartels who are looking towards stealth, despite the vessel's size meaning a slight sacrifice in payload.
"The sharp bow of the VSV punches through waves instead of riding over the top like a normal boat, and the slender body, which is about as wide as it is tall, ensures that the whole boat follows. So it goes like a bullet even in heavy sea," Sutton told Popular Mechanics.
Colombian drug cartels have been trying to find new ways to smuggle narcotics without detection for many years, experimenting with a number of boat designs, including using submarines. These, however, are a far slower option. With a VSV it seems the cartels have found the best of both worlds with speed and stealth, meaning authorities will have to devise new ways to adapt to the ever evolving evasion tactics of drug smugglers.