A Mexican drug cartel has begun using consumer drones weaponized with small explosives as they continue to wage war against rivals.
Mexico’s drug cartels have boasted a notorious reputation for being well armed, with some groups owning armored gun trucks donned with heavy-grade machine guns and a stockpiles of weapons.
Now, at least one vicious cartel has obtained quadcopter-style drones strapped with bombs that have been recovered by local authorities as recently as July 25.
The Drive reports that a civilian self-defense militia in the city of Tepalcatepec, which sits in Michoacan state, found two dozen quadcopters with explosives in a vehicle that cartel hitman, or sicarios, had reportedly abandoned after a botched hit.
Mexican authorities discovered a dozen of quadcopter-style drones installed small explosives (pictured) in an abandoned car in Michoacan on July 25
The bombs were made of Tupperware-like containers full of c4 charges, a common plastic explosive, and ball bearings for shrapnel.
The discovery was linked to the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), or Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has continued to exert a tight grip on its home turf of the Jalisco state and surrounding areas.
In fact, CJNG’s control extends to Mexico’s southwest Pacific coastline, along the Gulf of Mexico on the other side of the country and several states in the U.S.
In November 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that CJNG had extended their drug operations into 35 states and Puerto Rico.
Pictured: A map of Mexican cartels provided by The Drive that identifies CJNG in yellow
The DEA announced last year that CJNG is believed to be in at least 35 states and Puerto Rico (pictured)
And in July, authorities estimated that CJNG oversaw around one-third of all drugs being transported from Mexico into the U.S.
Operations have also reached out to other parts of the globe, including Europe and Asia.
CJNG entered the cartel ring in 2009 as an offshoot of the Milenio Cartel and has conducted an aggressive, brutal campaign against enemies, local Mexican law enforcement and civilian self-defense groups.
The massive paycheck being brought in has helped finance a swath of new vehicles, weapons and equipment for sicarios and foot soldiers, The Drive reports.
CJNG in July sought to prove their tactical power with a video they shared that was picked up by local media outlets.
Quadcopters with explosives (pictured) that were linked to CJNG were found in the city of Puebla in April
Footage showed a fleet of camouflaged SUVs, trucks and pickup vehicles that were surrounded by a dozen of cartel members waving machine guns.
Some of the armored vehicles were outfitted with guns and weaponry that resembled a militia.
Men in the video, wearing bullet proof vests with ‘CJNG’ stamped on top, yelled ‘El Mencho,’ the nickname of the top boss Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera Cervantes.
El Mencho succeeded the notorious Joaquin Guzman , or El Chapo, as top dog among Mexican cartels after Guzman received a life sentence in prison on July 17, 2019.
Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera Cervantes (pictured) is the top boss of CJNG
The men in the video belong to the ‘special forces’ sector within CJNG’s overall power structure.
The video came after a failed attempt by CJNG to assassinate Mexico’s police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch in June.
Harfuch was wounded in the shootout, but survived. Two of his bodyguards succumbed to their injuries.
Although it is the latest offensive tactic by CJNG, the cartel had previously used aerial strategies against members of the Tepalcatepec self-defense militia in April.
CJNG reportedly dropped explosive devices from small, manned aircrafts, but this method was abandoned when Mexican authorities boosted aerial surveillance.
Quadcopters with explosives that were linked to CJNG were found in the city of Puebla in April, The Drive reports.
Mexican authorities believed those devices had been meant for an attack on the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel some 200 miles north in Guanajuato.
Subsequently, a series of raids unearthed more quadcopters, a plethora of electronics and bomb-making supplies.
CJNG’s reliance on quadcopters echoed that of other Mexican cartels and criminal organizations that have used drones to deliver drugs over borders and barriers.
CJNG’s drug reach is believed to be global, with related-activities reported in the U.S., Europe and Asia
Bomb-equipped drones used by Mexican cartels date as far back as 2017 and, since the process to create them is fairly accessible, have become more common.
ISIS terrorists weaponized drones during battles in Iraq and in 2018, a group opposed to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro attempted to assassinate him at a public rally with a commercial drone.
In 2015, Japanese officials warned that Yakuza families had used drones for their criminal schemes.
Similar devices have also been found in Syria and Russia’s outpost in the country has been a consistent target to such attacks since 2018.
The Drive reports that authorities in Baghdad, Iraq, discovered a quadcopter drone with a bomb installed near the Green Zone, which houses various Embassies and government buildings, in July.
Meanwhile, some governments have hoped to leverage the autonomy of drones for military battle.
Turkey has worked on complex weaponized systems for drones and the U.S. has investigated varieties of counter-drone technologies to tackle low tier threats, The Drive reports.
Those include jammers, lasers, high-power microwave beams and directed-energy weapons.
CJNG has been characterized as violent and aggressive in their campaign to dominate other groups in the area
‘I argue all the time with my Air Force friends that the future of flight is vertical and it’s unmanned,’ said U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, at an event in June.
‘I’m not talking about large unmanned platforms, which are the size of a conventional fighter jet that we can see and deal with, as we would any other platform.
‘I’m talking about the one you can go out and buy at Costco right now in the United States for a thousand dollars, four quad, rotorcraft, or something like that that can be launched and flown.
‘And with very simple modifications, it can make made into something that can drop a weapon like a hand grenade or something else.’
The recent use of drone-bombs by CJNG proved that countermeasures to protect certain aspects, like infrastructure and deadly attacks, is increasingly needed.
Just last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicated the need for a counter-drone tactic as an ‘emerging requirement.’
If left unchecked, the tactic could very well spread to other Mexican cartels and unleash explosive warfare that could be detrimental to many.