CULDROSE FLIERS HELP SNARE £40M HEROIN HAUL AFTER DAY-LONG PURSUIT
Around £40 million of drugs will never fund terrorist groups after being seized in a day-long Anglo-American naval operation.
Royal Navy support ship RFA Fort Victoria located the suspect dhow as she patrolled the Arabian Sea, prompting a night/day chase over hundreds of miles of ocean. At first light, the support ship launched her Sea King helicopters on round-the-clock sorties tracking the craft across the sea, before guiding a US Navy destroyer into a position to pounce.
Sailors from the USS Laboon boarded the vessel and found 278kg of pure uncut heroin – worth upwards of £40million on the streets of the UK if distributed. The Sea Kings of Normandy Flight, 849 Naval Air Squadron, maintained watch of the Americans as they clambered aboard the dhow, photographing and videoing the operation for any future legal proceedings.
“This sends a clear message to those wishing to use the high seas for illicit purposes – you can run but you can’t hide. We will find and catch you,” said Lieutenant Commander Ben Unsworth, Normandy Flight’s commander. He said his engineers had worked through the night to ensure the helicopters were ready to launch at dawn and keep an eye on the dhow all day.
“It was immensely satisfying to work with such professional units across several nations to achieve a common aim,” Lieutenant Commander Unsworth added. “It was especially pleasing to get a result so early in the Flight’s deployment, setting the bar high for our follow on operations.”
The helicopters – with distinctive black sacks on the side which contains the vital radar – were designed to help protect the Navy from air attack by providing early warning of incoming enemy aircraft. But their radar suite proved so powerful that the Sea King Mk7s are just as much at home over land, tracking moving targets. They were instrumental in helping British forces knock out Iraqi tanks around Basra in 2003 and, during five years in Afghanistan, ensured ground troops seized 40 tonnes of drugs and over 170 tonnes of home-made bombs.
The two helicopters had used their state-of-the-art radar suite to monitor the dhow’s progress, feeding constant reports to Fort Victoria, international Combined Task Force 150, which is directing the counter-terrorism/smuggling mission in the Indian Ocean, and finally the USS Laboon.
Normally based at Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose, Normandy Flight had only just returned to the Middle East after a period of rest, recuperation and re-generation in the UK following their last tour. USS Laboon’s Commanding Officer Commander Jason Labott was delighted with the outcome of an operation played out “across great distances for the common good of the international community”
“The hard work and professionalism of our boarding team, Laboon’s crew, the air crews from RFA Fort Victoria and Combined Task Force 50 deserve great credit.Keeping these drugs off the streets helps everyone – and keeps money from those who use the profits for harm.”