That time a B-1 Lancer bomber made a $75 million drug bust

The B-1B Lancer is perhaps America’s most underrated heavy bomber.

For some perspective, let’s look at the specs. The Lancer can carry 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs internally — that’s more than the B-52 or the B-2. It can carry a bunch of other weapons as well – from the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile to the CBU-97 cluster bomb.

And the B-1 may be the one thing holding back Russia from an all-out invasion of the Baltics.

But did you know that a B-1 even foiled a plan to bring over 1,000 pounds of cocaine into the country? Here’s how that happened:

A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

According to an Air Force Times report from last year, the B-1 had been on a routine training mission off the Florida coast in March when the crew noticed something suspicious. When they went to check it out they saw a speed boat with drug smugglers and a fresh load of cocaine.

The smugglers had no idea that they were followed until they looked up and saw the humongous bomber coming right at them. They did what just about anyone would do in that situation: They panicked.

The B-1 crew caught them on tape dumping an estimated 500 kilos of cocaine overboard. According to an Oct. 2016 report by Business Insider, each kilo was worth up to $150,000 on the street – meaning that some drug lord took a $75 million hit to his bottom line.

Now that’s a good thing.

Floating-cocaine-bales-US-Coast-Guard-drug-bust

Photo: Courtesy US Coast Guard

You might think the crew of that B-1B got into trouble for violating the Posse Comitatus Act. Guess again – in fact, this incident inspired then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James to see if other training missions could be used to help in the War on Drugs. This past September, DodBuzz.com reported that a five-day training exercise last August was used to assist in a counter-drug operation that seized over 6,000 kilos of cocaine.