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New study examines FARC’s development of narco-submarines

The development of semi-submersible vessels by FARC highlights the group’s capabilities to engage in highly complex engineering tasks, facilitating drug trafficking across the South and Central American coasts

Over the last 40 years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has proven to be one of the most violent and formidable non-state actors in the world. Showing sophistication and adaptability, the group has upgraded its former methods of drug transportation in favor of a more covert alternative, according to new START research.

 A new article explores FARC’s recent evolution and how it now utilizes narco-submarines. Part of a broader series of case studies that discuss the phenomenon of complex engineering tasks by non-state actors, this unique case study outlines the different phases of narco-submarine development, FARC’s ability to overcome design challenges, and the implications of its newfound tactical advantage. 

The study attributes FARC’s success to its financial and human resources, influence, safe havens, and culture of learning.

“The level of commitment demonstrated by FARC to this cause is exceptional,” said Michelle Jacome, a START researcher who led the study. “The iterative process demonstrates how innovation, coupled with motivation and resources resulted in yet another stand-alone capability acquired by this group.  The threat now lies not only in the smuggling of illicit drugs, but the potential dual use of this resource for other more nefarious purposes of transporting other types of materials or weapons across the region.”

According to the Jacome, the broader implication of these findings is that clandestine organizations are willing to undertake complex engineering tasks in their efforts to overcome defensive technologies implemented by state actors. Furthermore, FARC now possesses a capability that can be shared with other dangerous organizations.

To read the full report “The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Development of Narco-Submarines” visit