Mexican authorities discovered a 'narco tank' factory near the US border

Narco tank factoryMexican GovernmentMexican government-published photos of narco tanks found during the raid.

Mexican authorities have discovered what they believe to be a “narco tank factory” run by drug trafficking organisations in Neuvo Luredo, right across from the US border, earlier this month, the Small Wars Journal reports citing the Mexican government.

Narco tanks are cars and trucks that have been specially reinforced to withstand ballistic attacks from both high and low calibre weapons. These armoured vehicles are used to help ferry drug shipments into the US and are used for protection against rival drug traffickers and the police.

“The 8 vehicles recovered … were in the process of being given ballistic protection upgrades much like those used on governmental, private security, and corporate armoured cars,” Robert Bunker and Byron Ramirez write for the Small Wars Journal. “It is worth noting that many of the vehicles had Texas licence plates which suggests that they might have been used to carry product across the US-Mexico border.”

Screen Shot 2015 02 18 at 4.43.27 PMYouTubeThe armoured door of one narco-tank captured in Monterrey, Mexico in 2011

Eight of the thirteen vehicles, which were discovered on February 4, were being given ballistic protection on the interior of the vehicles. Interior protection has two main benefits: It allows the cars to manoeuvre faster compared to if they had clunky exterior armour, while also drawing less suspicion as the cars do not appear to be modified from the outside.

In the raid on the narco tank factory, authorities also found “magazines for AK-47s, 495 rounds of 7.62 x 39, 46 rounds of .308 Winchester, and four rounds of .50 Browning used in Barrett sniper rifles and M2 (Ma Deuce) machine guns” alongside the vehicles.

The Small Wars Journal states that, based on prior narco tank construction, the .50 calibre rounds indicate that the sniper rifles would likely have been mounted in the back of the trucks for use in anti-vehicular and anti-personnel activities.

The vehicles are thought to belong to a “faction” of the Gulf Cartel, according to the Small Wars Journal. The Gulf Cartel was once one of Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking groups, but has disintegrated in the wake of high-profile arrests — including the capture of its 23-year-old head last October — and challenges from stronger organisations, like Las Zetas. The Gulf Cartel’s breakdown into smaller, fractious groups has been one major cause of recent violence along the US-Mexican border.

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