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The Drugs seized
ScanEagle taking off from HMS Richmond
Patrol craft intercepting Dhow
HMS Richmond

Culdrose X team uses ‘eye in the sky to bust £98 million worth of heroin

Published: 18 Jun 2015

A team from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, using cutting edge technology, has helped stop nearly one tonne of heroin (worth approximately £98 million) reaching the streets. Culdrose’s newest Squadron – 700X – played a key part using its unmanned aircraft to provide intelligence in a series of drug busts in the Indian Ocean. 


Six boats carrying narcotics were boarded off the east coast ofAfricaand their cargoes seized by an international task force which included British frigate HMS Richmond.  The warship used the ‘ScanEagle’s’ of 700X Naval Air Squadron to fly undetected above the smugglers, monitor activity and pass back information to commanders.


The Portsmouth-based warship and her counterparts in Combined Task Force 150, the international force committed to carrying out counter-terrorism and drug-smuggling patrols, then pounced as the vessels headed forTanzania.


It’s estimated that, if distributed, the 981kg of heroin seized would make three million individual doses – whilst the money generated by the sale of the drugs on the streets would be around £98 million potentially funding terrorist activity.


HMS Richmond arrived in the region in April and has used a number of sensors to identify potential drug smugglers, including the remotely piloted ScanEagle of 700X. The information the Royal Navy provided with this state-of-the-art technology was given to the task group’s commanders aboard the French supply ship FS Var.  From here they made the decision to allow Australian andNew Zealandboarding teams to close in for the raids.


Despite not physically taking part in the boardings, HMS Richmond’s Commanding Officer Commander Mark Anderson said his ship had a vital role in the half-dozen seizures. “Richmond has played her part in disrupting the narcotics supply routes via Africa into Europe and the UK, working with France, Australia, New Zealand and Tanzanian authorities,” he said. “It’s a unique thing the Royal Navy can do, deploying thousands of miles from home, working side by side with regional allies and having a direct impact on the supply of narcotics into the UK.”


Captain Adrian Orchard OBE, Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose praised the efforts of the Helston based team too.  He said: “Once again, team Culdrose are making a difference across the Globe. Be it 700X Naval Air Squadron tracking thousands of miles of open seas and providing essential information for counter-narcotics missions, our units on humanitarian missions in the Mediterranean and others on Operations in the Gulf, aviators from Culdrose are making a vital contribution to the security of our Country. The team onboard HMS Richmond has spent many hours scouring the seas for potential smugglers. It has been a painstaking operation, but the huge amount of drugs captured by the taskforce is a great result.”


HMS Richmond will continue her security patrols until the end of the year.


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