USAF thwarts drug smugglers with GPS and other tools
Wearing fatigues and dog tags instead of neon suits and gold chains, U.S. airmen are making quite a dent in the Afghanistan drug trade.
The U.S. Air Force 350th Electronic Systems Group and one of its small-business partners, the Counter Narcotics-Terrorism Intelligence Fusion Center has helped officials seize more than 45 tons of narcotics -- with a street value of more than $1 billion -- and boosted the related arrest rate by 75 percent, the Air Force reports.
The Intelligence Fusion Center (IFC) is a commercial-off-the-shelf-based system designed to capture, share and disseminate counter-narcotics terrorism (CNT) intelligence data. Information gathered by Global Positioning Systems, human intelligence and coalition partners furnish IFC's database, specially tailored for the CNT mission.
The primary Afghanistan system operates from a location in Kabul, and works with and is linked to the Drug Enforcement Administration's Center for Drug Information.
The IFC system started in late 2004, when U.S. Central Command determined a requirement to support the CNT mission in Afghanistan based on a connection between narcotics trafficking, illegal weapons and terrorist activity. The Air Force is the lead service for CN detection and monitoring, and supports the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counter Narcotics through Air Combat Command.
To combat the drug trade, the Electronic Systems Center established a small-business contract with Cambridge Communications Systems, Inc., to deploy the system to Afghanistan.
"The IFC provides warfighters with critical real-time information that enables the interdiction of narcotics and weapon smuggling rings working in Afghanistan and several other countries," said Col. Steven Webb, 350th Electronic Systems Group commander.
The IFC has supported the identification and break up of narcotics and weapons smuggling rings operating within Afghanistan, but led by suspects from Nigeria, Thailand, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Zambia and South Africa, the Air Force reports.
Additionally, the Air Force says, the system's use resulted in the seizure of more than 80 SIM cards - subscriber identity modules, the portable memory chips in cell phones - via the Afghan police. The cards, sent to the National Security Agency for exploitation, are currently providing the best leads for identifying and breaking up new smuggling rings outside of the country.