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Royal Navy plays key role in £40m Arabian Sea heroin bust

Royal Navy plays key role in £40m Arabian Sea heroin bust
17 March 2017
Around £40m of drugs will never reach the pockets of terrorist groups after being seized in a 24-hour UK/US naval operation in the Gulf.

Royal Navy support ship RFA Fort Victoria located a suspect dhow this week as she patrolled the Arabian Sea, sparking a lengthy chase over hundreds of miles of ocean.

At first light, the RFA ship launched her Sea King helicopters on round-the-clock sorties tracking the craft across the sea before directing a US Navy destroyer into position to pounce.

Sailors from the USS Laboon boarded the vessel and found 278kg of pure uncut heroin – worth upwards of £40m 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.

It was immensely satisfying to work with such professional units across several nations to achieve a common aim – there was a Herculean effort by everyone aboard Fort Victoria especially

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 – there was a Herculean effort by everyone aboard Fort Victoria especially,” Lt Cdr 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 two helicopters 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 in Cornwall, Normandy Flight have only just returned to the Middle East after a period of rest, recuperation and regeneration 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,” he said.

“Keeping these drugs off the streets helps everyone – and keeps money from those who use the profits for harm.”

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