Fliers from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall played a key role in seizing £105m of hashish after a two-day hunt in the Indian Ocean.
The Sea King helicopters spent two days searching hundreds of miles of ocean before they located the suspicious dhow.
The helicopter crew guided Australian frigate HMAS Warramunga to the vessel where the ship’s boarding team discovered more than 3½ tonnes of illegal narcotics hidden aboard.
The home of the helicopters, British support ship RFA Fort Rosalie, broke off from the festive break a few days earlier than planned after they were alerted to the possibility of a drugs runner in her area and launched her helicopters to begin the search on New Year’s Day.
Fitted with specialist radar, the Sea Kings are able to track incoming aircraft as well as any movements on the ground or on the surface of the ocean – down to individual vehicles or vessels.
The vessel was spotted on the second day of searching after the dhow strayed from its usual shipping routes.
The Sea Kings monitored its movement using their radar waiting for darkness for the Australians to close in and swoop to catch the trafficker unawares.
Sea King detachment commander Lieutenant Commander Dan Breward said: “There was a massive effort from all parties involved from both Fort Rosalie and, ultimately, Warramunga.
“As long as drugs and weapons continue to be trafficked to aid terrorism, we will be here with the coalition members to stop them; we have a track record that we aim to build upon.”
Both ships and the helicopters are working for Combined Task Force 150, an Australian-led international force of warships which patrols 2½ million square miles of Indian Ocean on the lookout for illegal activity – most of which funds terrorism and insurgency.
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