MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. – A unique Navy ship that deployed in February to test new counter-drug smuggling technology returned to Mayport on Thursday morning.
The Swift is a high speed vessel with 120 people on board. It was in South America testing counter-drug technology in support of Operation Martillo.
"I think it's a huge win all around because, again, we can take what we learn from this, figure out where we need to make some improvements and get it tuned up to where we need it and go forward," Mission Cmdr. Bob Polling said.
It's a unique looking ship; a catamaran design with knife-like hulls that allow it to carry cargo, troops or humanitarian aid and it can do that in barely a dozen feet deep of water.
"The Swift is coming back after four months at sea conducting Southern Partnership Station as well as counter drug operations in the Caribbean, so it's been out there doing great stuff with folks from the Marines, the Air Force, the Army and the Coast Guard," said Lt. Commander Corey Barker of 4th Fleet Public Affairs.
As part of Southern Partnership Station, the ship went to Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. It left Mayport Feb. 15.
"Just recently, the ship was testing new technology in the counter drug war. We were testing aerostat balloons as well as UAVs for the first time on this ship and it turned out to be very successful and we're really looking forward to taking this technology we just tested on this ship into real world operations," said Barker.
Both pieces of technology are equipped with state-of-the-art radars, cameras and sensors that could be useful in detecting organizations trying to smuggle drugs.
Though the Swift is back at Mayport, Polling said there are still ships that remain in the Caribbean. Although budget cuts are a concern, he added that the Navy will continue to be aggressive and move forward.
This is it for the Swift because it won't be used again. Instead, it's being replaced by a joint high speed vessel, the Spearhead.
"The joint high speed vessel is much larger and the capabilities aren't very different, you can just do a whole lot more, carry a much larger load much more people so just a bigger, more capable platform," said Barker.
The ship arrived at Mayport at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. It will then head to Norfolk, Virginia, which is its home port, and eventually be returned to the civilian company the Navy chartered it from.