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Navy's new weapon in the war on drugs

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Updated: 5/23/2013 6:36 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --  The Navy's counter-drug operations have just come to an end.  Thursday morning, the ship used to track down drug lords docked in Mayport.

During the mission, the crew finished testing out new technology in the war on drugs and only Action News was invited to join them.

As HSV2 Swift pulled into port Thursday, it's a bitter sweet moment for the crew. They have been on board since February chasing down drug lords in the waters off Central America.  It's called Operation Martillo.

"The predominance of the movement of drugs is in the maritime environment," said Rear Admiral John Matheson. 

Budget cuts like sequestration have halted the drug missions because the Navy was told they are too expensive. Rear Admiral Matheson said this is a mission they can't afford to lose.

"We've always been able to adapt and overcome and we will adjust fires accordingly and make it happen," he said.

That's where the Aerostat Balloon comes in. It's equipped with cameras and sensors and allows the team to search for drug boats at about a third of the cost.

"It's less manpower intensive and I think it has the ability to meet the mission," said Commander Brad Fillius.

The team tested it out in Key West, then headed farther south to try it out in real situations. Rear Admiral Matheson tells us, it worked.

"We had two successful intercepts towards the end of the deployment here where we were actually able to run down a couple ships," said Matheson.

He says that's good news, but only half the battle.

Rear admiral Matheson will now meet with the Navy's top brass to try to get approval to continue using it.

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