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Culdrose fliers and RFA Fort Victoria help snare £40m heroin haul after day-long pursuit
17 March 2017


Around £40m of drugs will never fund terrorist groups after being seized in a day-long Anglo-American naval operation.

Support ship RFA Fort Victoria located the suspect dhow as she patrolled the Arabian Sea, prompting a night/day chase by Sea King helicopters and a US destroyer over hundreds of miles of ocean.

WATCHED by the all-seeing eyes of a Sea King Mk7, US marines prepare to board a suspect dhow as a day-long chase across the Arabian Sea by Anglo-American naval forces reaches its showdown.

After a thorough search of the vessel – tracked since dawn by Sea Kings of 849 Naval Air Squadron – 278kg pure, uncut heroin, worth upwards of £40m on the streets of the UK, was discovered by the boarding team from the destroyer USS Laboon.

Support ship RFA Fort Victoria – home to 849’s Normandy Flight – had located the suspect dhow as she patrolled the Arabian Sea, prompting a night/day pursuit 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.

The Sea Kings 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 Lt Cdr 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,” 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 had only just returned 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.”