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US take-down team joins RFA Mounts Bay for war on drugs in Caribbean

21 January 2019
Naval support ship RFA Mounts Bay has joined the fight against Caribbean drug-running after embarking a specialist take-down team.

US Coast Guard counter-narcotics experts have joined the British vessel to weigh into the ongoing struggle to prevent illegal drugs from South and Central America reaching North America and the wider world, drugs which are typically smuggled across the Caribbean in small speedboats known as go-fasts.

Mounts Bay, which was built to provide the Royal Marines with amphibious support on operations around the globe, is the UK’s long-term naval presence in the Caribbean, dedicating the summer and autumn to disaster relief operations in the wake of hurricanes which strike with devastating frequency.

And the rest of her year is focused on counter drugs patrols. While the sheer presence of a ship can be sufficient to keep drug runners in harbour, Mounts Bay must be able to stop, search and detain any criminals and their vessels.         

Having completed our training and integration package with the US Coast Guard teams we are very much looking forward to supporting law enforcement and security in the Caribbean.

Captain Angus Bissell RFA

Which is where the SH65 Dolphin helicopter of the US Coast Guard’s HITRON – Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON – and its counter-narcotics boarding team, the LEDET (Legal Enforcement DETachment) – come in.

They joined the Bay-class ship in Miami, where she spent Christmas and New Year undergoing a spot of maintenance, before sailing for the Dutch territory of Curacao.

The ship and Coast Guard teams used the 1,200-mile crossing to hone combined skills and get used to each other’s ways of working and different equipment.

The LEDET will conduct most board-and-search operations by boat, so Mounts Bay’s Pacific 24 took them out for a ‘spin’ to give them an idea of its speed, manoeuvrability and, most importantly, disembarking to search a suspect craft.

And the Dolphin helicopter has been airborne day and night, culminating in drills involving the helicopter and boats against a simulated ‘Target Of Interest’ (TOI) – actually a small boat crewed by some of the auxiliary’s sailors.

“Having completed our training and integration package with the US Coast Guard teams we are very much looking forward to supporting law enforcement and security in the Caribbean,” said Captain Angus Bissell RFA, Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer.

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