Drug busting helicopter returns home to Yeovilton
A Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron returns home to Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton today from a successful drug-busting deployment to the North Atlantic and Caribbean.
The aircraft was deployed on board the Portsmouth based frigate HMS Lancaster for the last seven months and between them they have seized cocaine and marijuana with a total street value of £160m.
Although principally tasked with disaster relief during the hurricane season, the aircraft was also a vital weapon in the multi-national fight against drugs. Able to search a much larger area than the ship on its own, the Lynx flew daily patrols looking for illegal smugglers.
The Flight Commander, Lieutenant Chris Easterbrook said: “The team did extraordinarily well in some really challenging circumstances. This deployment asked for early starts and long days and everyone delivered. Helping to take such a large quantity of drugs off the streets is a great reward for all this hard work. You always hope to be home for Christmas but these things are always subject to change. It’s great to be back.”
Mickeala Burridge the partner of LAET Carl Boyce was there to welcome back Carl with their 14 month old daughter Carly. Mickeala said “it’s been a really long time and Carly has changed so much! It’s really lovely to be back together as a family for Christmas.”
In total, six “go-fast” smuggling speed boats were detected, five of which were successfully apprehended with the helicopter’s help. On two occasions the suspects attempted to escape so Royal Marine snipers on board the Lynx were used to shoot out their engines. Once stopped in the water they could be boarded by teams from HMS Lancaster.
In addition to countering drugs on the high seas, the aircraft also aided local law enforcement in the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla to locate cannabis plantations hidden in the mountains. These flights proved very successful with a total of three raids being conducted based on the information provided by the helicopter.
Petty Officer Kev Messom, the mechanical systems maintainer said of the deployment: “It was a long but successful seven months away but a huge sense of achievement was felt by all on board. It was very hard work and it’s good to be home in time for Christmas.”