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HMS Lancaster seizes anti-tank missiles after high-speed chase in Gulf of Oman

Two of Lancaster's sea boats flank the suspect skiff as Royal Marines retrieve the weapons cache
2 March 2023
The Royal Navy seized anti-tank weapons and ballistic missile components being smuggled in international waters in the Gulf of Oman after a high-speed chase in the Gulf.

Royal Marines of 42 Commando from HMS Lancaster pounced on a speed boat after scrambling its Wildcat helicopter to track the vessel darting through international waters.

 

The smugglers tried to evade the ever-present 815 Naval Air Squadron helicopter and ignored every radio call demanding them to stop – instead steering their craft towards Iranian territorial waters.

 

They were intercepted by the British frigate before they could do so.

 

The Royal Marines boarding team who searched the suspect craft found a number of packages.

 

Royal Navy bomb disposal and ordnance specialists checked the weapons to ensure they were safe to bring them back onboard Lancaster for inspection.

 

The haul included Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles – known in Iran as ‘Dehlavieh’ – and medium-range ballistic missile components.

 

The chase was sparked when an American drone spotted the skiff moving at speed through international waters in the darkness.

 

The United Nations have been informed about the seizure and invited to conduct its own inspection of the materiel in accordance with Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231.

 

“It was a great buzz when we were given the green light by the captain to intercept the vessel,” said Leading Seaman Pawley, one of the advanced tactical coxswains charged with manoeuvring Lancaster’s Pacific 24 sea boats into position for the commandos to board the suspect craft.

 

Fellow coxswain Able Seaman MacLeod added: “The best part of the boarding operation was chasing down the vessel and getting eyes on the packages that were strapped down in the skiff.”

 

Marine Si from 42 Commando was one of the team who boarded the skiff and recovered the arms haul.

 

“We suspected that it was going to be a successful op when we spotted all the packages on the vessel of interest,” he said.

 

“It was a great feeling to secure the vessel and we soon realised the importance of the interdiction as we uncovered more and more weapons – a great day to be a Royal Marine!”

 

Lancaster’s Commanding Officer Commander Paul Irving said his 200 crew were buzzing as a result of their success.

 

He added: “This boarding was a fantastic team effort, and I’m really proud of the way the whole ship’s company worked together to achieve such a brilliant result.”

 

It’s the third weapons cache seized by the Royal Navy in the region inside 13 months. Early in 2022, HMS Lancaster’s predecessor operating in the same waters, sister frigate HMS Montrose, struck twice inside a month, interdicting multiple rocket engines for land-attack cruise missile and a batch of surface-to-air missiles. 

 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Lancaster’s interdiction – and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region – “supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world.”

 

As a result of last year’s arms seizures, the UK presented evidence of violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions – concerning weapons transfers to Houthi rebels and controls on the proliferation of Iranian missile technology respectively.

It was a great feeling to secure the vessel and we soon realised the importance of the interdiction as we uncovered more and more weapons – a great day to be a Royal Marine!

Marine Si, 42 Commando, HMS Lancaster

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