It’s Cincode-Mayo, commemorating the Battle of Puebla, and celebrated in the US – but not so much in Mexico. There will be tacos eaten, Corona and Negro Modelo downed by the case. So how are we celebrating here at Virtual Mirage? A roast beef sandwich, side of coleslaw, and a Diet DP. I had chicken tacos last night for dinner…


And a discussion of Narco Subs





The cartels have built and operated the first commercially viable submarines in history. They are made to meet the requirements of the mission at hand and to operate profitably.


Some are caught, most make it through – or enough to make it financially profitable to keep making them.


The majority are low-observability surface skimmers.

The cartels learn from their mistakes.


There is a rumor

Russian 865 – Piranha

The rumor is that the narcos bought a Project 865 Soviet Submarine from the Russian reserve fleet. Only two 865 boats were built, MS-520 and MS-521. I don’t know which one of the two was purchased – about 15-16 years ago.  They docked it in Guaymas in a specially built facility. Not really a sub pen, but sort of a “beach house” that extended into the water and housed the boat. It would be loaded, would leave in darkness and submerge and travel through the Sea of Cortez and north along the shore to disgorge its cargo through two torpedo tubes. Pangas (small open boats) picked up the cocaine when it floated to the surface off the Orange County/San Diego County coast.

The original crew was Russian, but was replaced by Mexicans in time and it experienced operational problems and a lack of spare parts. Russian mechanics remained in Mexico to work on the submarine.

The 865 displaced 390 tons submerged, was 92.5′ long and drew 17′. It was rated for a maximum depth of nearly 1,000′, but operationally, they kept it near periscope depth because it was mechanically unsound. It traveled at about 7 kn/h, which is very slow, but it was a full displacement submergence submarine and it made the trip such that it paid for itself in a few trips.

Customs/Border Protection and the Coast Guard reported the presence of the submarine and US Naval assets reportedly tracked it. The Navy didn’t sink it, but reported their activities through classified channels.  US operatives attempted to have the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) sink it, but they declined, allegedly.

The diagram above, illustrates that it drew a lot of water in a dock. Dredging was allegedly required to build a channel for the submarine to reach the facility in Guaymas.

If it truly existed, I have no idea what the fate of the Narco/Russian 865 Class boat was. I expect that they sank it dry somewhere off the coast where a diver could get to it and lock in if they needed to. Rumors were that the boat became too unsafe to operate and the cost to repair it became prohibitive. The cheaper narco-subs (see top of this blog) took its place.


  1. Pasta for me tonight, though I washed it down with a Modelo Negra. I suppose that for me it’s Cinco de Maggio, the Mexican-Italian version of the holiday.

  2. Well that was fascinating, and it reminded me of WWII(?) subs you used to see rusting at dock in UK ports back in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I always wanted one and now it’d be handy on Lake Whitney.

    Celebrating Cinco with some grilled chicken.

    • If you called it Pollo, it would have been cultural appropriation. Calling it chicken makes it OK.

  3. How long will it be till some enterprising Chinese firm designs a low cost sub, something that will cruise 5 meters deep or so, and ships them over, one per container. Sub in a box. One run and done.
    I mean, all this wacky one-off stuff is entertaining, but it is no way to run a business.

  4. It’s scary when you throw selection bias at it. The pictures are of the ones that didn’t work or got caught. I wonder what the successful ones look like.

    • Excellent point.

      It’s true that even a blind pig finds a truffle from time to time.

      The old saying that “we don’t catch the smart ones” may apply here.

    • They are those tic-tac UFOs the Navy keeps going on about!

      The Cartels have to spend all that money on something

  5. The first LPVs we encountered back in the early 80s were basically sailboats that had their masts and upper cabin roofs removed, a low deck height roof added and painted green. Those suckers were HARD to spot, unless you had a good radar operator and good lookouts!

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