Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon has seized 49kg of heroin – her fifth drugs bust in three months in the Gulf.
The Portsmouth-based ship made the seizure as she returned to maritime security operations on the notorious drug smuggling route known as the ‘Hash Highway.’
The Class-A drugs, which have been destroyed, would have had a street value of £9m. The sale of these drugs is a known source of funding for terrorist organisations and criminal networks.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been in the Gulf region this week to sign an historic Joint Defence Agreement with Oman. He said: “Heroin destroys lives but, thanks to the tireless work of HMS Dragon’s crew, these criminals will not be distributing this poison and will instead face justice."
The bust began with an early-morning sortie for Dragon’s Wildcat helicopter, looking out for suspicious vessels likely to be involved in the narcotics trade.
Pilot Lieutenant Scott Sunderland, from 815 Naval Air Squadron, said: “We spotted a contact at range using our radar and, on closing, the flight observer was able to use the electro-optical device on the aircraft to provide high-quality images of the suspect dhow.”
Dragon immediately launched her sea boats and, following a search of the dhow by the Royal Navy and 42 Commando Royal Marines boarding team, the drugs were found hidden in the vessel.
Boarding officer Lt Laurens Williams said: “While the weather conditions were much more conducive to the search activity, the team worked hard over long hours to ensure that any concealed narcotics were found."
Lt Sunderland added: “This seizure has once again highlighted the fantastic capability of the Wildcat aircraft and its ability to find, fix and identify suspected dhows at vast ranges, thus extending the search footprint of HMS Dragon as it continues on its maritime security mission with Combined Task Force150.”
HMS Dragon will continue supporting the efforts of CTF-150 over her operational deployment to the region seeking to significantly disrupt the flow of illicit narcotics.