These are the new planes with which drug traffickers in Mexico transport drugs to the United States. A common practice for pilots working for the cartels is to set planes on fire once drugs have been successfully transported.
Organized crime in Mexico has not stopped using small and propeller planes, however, they now also use Gulfstream, Learjet, and Hawker brand turbine planes (Photo: Ministry of National Defense of the Guatemalan Army)
Mexican drug traffickers have changed the way they transport drugs by implementing the use of more advanced and faster planes: the most notable change is in the transition from propeller planes to turbine planes , assured Armando Ruiz Ayala, head of the area of operations of the Integrated Air Surveillance System (SIVA) of the Mexican Air Force (FAM).
On average, Mexican authorities detect three irregular flights each month on the country’s southern border (Photo: Twitter @ SEDENAmx)
Ruiz Ayala told El Universal that a plane seized by the Mexican Army in Mahahual, Quintana Roo, in January of this year, was carrying around a ton of cocaine . In addition, he had the ability to avoid FAM radars and fighter jets .
Organized crime in Mexico has not stopped using small and propeller planes, however, they now also use Gulfstream, Learjet, and Hawker brand aircraft to transport weapons, money, and drugs from South America to Mexico and, finally, to the United States.
The drug traffickers, according to the SIVA chief of operations, are ” modifying the way they operate . Before, they used small, propeller planes, but currently they use planes with turbine engines, with a higher speed and greater load capacity .”
However, he added that the federal government has the necessary technology, such as radars and fighter jets, to detect illegal aircraft . For example, a fleet of three planes can form a shield that forces pilots, who work for cartels, to land in Guatemala or Belize and not in Mexico.
“Mexico has an air shield that allows it to detect any irregular or suspicious flight . When they find out, they don’t dare enter Mexican airspace because they know they will be detected and intercepted, which is why they land sooner, ” he said.
On average, Mexican authorities detect three irregular flights each month on the country’s southern border . Most of these come from Venezuela. However, a larger number has been recorded since January this year: nine illegal aircraft were identified in that month alone.
The drug traffickers, according to the SIVA chief of operations, are “modifying the way they operate. Before, they used small, propeller planes, but currently they use turbine-powered planes, with a higher speed and greater load capacity” (Photo : Instagram @ _aviation)
Since the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador began on December 1, 2018, the government has registered 630 irregular flights , of which 80 were classified as illegal.
The López Obrador administration has seized weapons, planes, and drugs with a value of approximately 3,500 million pesos.
According to Ruiz Ayala, the Mexican Air Force and the federal government have identified the flight and landing routes used by organized crime groups. The most common route is Venezuela-Nicaragua-Mexico , and most of these flights land in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo using clandestine airstrips , illegal airfields, and alfalfa fields.
A common practice for pilots working for the cartels is to set the planes on fire once the drug load has been successfully transported.
The López Obrador administration has seized weapons, planes, and drugs with a value of approximately 3,500 million pesos (Photo: Ministry of National Defense of the Guatemalan Army)
The national air space is protected by the Comprehensive Air Surveillance System (SIVA), the technology to detect satellite aircrafts without flight permits that carry drugs and illegal money.
It has 80 elements of its staff that work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They carry out control, computing, communications, intelligence, reconnaissance actions and allow real-time decisions to be made in Mexican security operations.
This center allows detecting all the aircraft that fly over the country and are suspected of illicit activities. Thanks to their actions, more than seven tons of drugs, weapons and millions of pesos have been seized so far by this administration.
Amounts of methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin are frequently seized on flights , according to a report by the Air Force Comprehensive Surveillance System. Most flights are detected in Sinaloa and Durango , as well as on the southern border.
“Upon detecting an irregular flight, we seek to identify it with the cooperation of national and international civil and military agencies. If it’s an illicit aircraft, we deploy interceptor planes to visually identify the registration [and] the type of aircraft,” Ruiz said, adding that attempts are also made to establish communication with the crew.
One of the radar-equipped aircraft used by the army to locate narco-planes.
“If the plane still isn’t identified, we go to the third stage. We order it to land in the nearest airport; if it doesn’t, it’s followed until it lands,” he said.
A specialized Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) team is then deployed to the landing site by helicopter with the aim of making arrests and seizing both the aircraft and prohibited goods.
The Sedena team has confiscated planes, drugs, weapons and cash with a combined value of 3.5 billion pesos (US $187 million) since President López Obrador took office, and the army has also collaborated on operations in Guatemala and Belize that have resulted in an additional 3.5 billion pesos worth of seizures.
The army seized drugs and weapons from two planes that landed in Quintana Roo in January. More than 600 kilograms were confiscated from the first plane, which landed on a highway near Chetumal early Monday. The army also arrested two men but not before one soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a gunfight.
The second plane was forced to land at the airfield in Mahahual, where two Bolivian citizens on board were arrested. Military personnel seized about a ton of cocaine with an estimated value of 224.6 million pesos (US $12 million).