A drugs haul is laid out on Montrose's flight deck CREDIT Royal Navy
The Combined Task Force is made up of 34 member nations (Picture: Royal Navy).
Navy

Royal Navy takes command of anti-drug smuggling and illegal trafficking task force in Middle East

A drugs haul is laid out on Montrose's flight deck CREDIT Royal Navy
The Combined Task Force is made up of 34 member nations (Picture: Royal Navy).

A Royal Navy Captain has taken charge of a key naval task force tackling terrorism and drug smuggling across the Middle East.

Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden to help ensure freedom of navigation by disrupting and deterring destabilizing maritime activity.

This is the eleventh time the Royal Navy has taken command of the Task Force – CTF-150 is one of four task forces under Combined Maritime Forces, the largest international naval partnership in the world, consisting of 34 member nations.

The Royal Navy's Captain Jim Bryon took charge from the Royal Saudi Naval Force at the group's head quarters in Bahrain.  

Captain Byron said his predecessor, Rear Admiral Abdullah Al-Mutairi, had achieved "huge success" in his six months in charge.

The new Royal Navy-led staff of CTF150.jpg Royal Navy Picture
The CTF-150 handover ceremony took place in Bahrain (Picture: Royal Navy).

He added: "Commanding Combined Task Force 150 is a huge privilege, and I am delighted to have been welcomed so warmly to Bahrain to work once again with our Combined Maritime Force partners.

"The work these 38 nations do – ready and stronger together – is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when like-minded nations come together for the common good."

The New CTF-150 commander went on to say: "Through persistent military presence, we will do all we can to maintain maritime security across the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, ensuring the legitimate use of the global maritime commons and disrupting the illicit activity of terrorist organisations and narcotics traffickers."

He added that his Royal Navy staff "supported by personnel from both the Royal Navy of New Zealand and the Italian Marina Militare" will "work tirelessly to keep a watchful eye over the region".

Royal Marines board a dhow - as seen from HMS Montrose's Wildcat helicopter (Picture: Royal Navy).
Royal Marines board a dhow – as seen from HMS Montrose's Wildcat helicopter (Picture: Royal Navy).

During a ceremony held in Bahrain, the Royal Saudi Naval Force officially handed over the command of CTF-150 to the Royal Navy.

Since July 2022, and under the recent command of the Royal Saudi Naval Force, there have been six busts: capturing more than 11 tonnes of hashish, three tonnes of heroin, two tonnes of methamphetamines and three tonnes of opium – amounting to £150m worth of drugs seized.

One of those seizures – totalling nearly £15.5m of illegal narcotics – was carried out by Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose in October.

The crew and ship have now been replaced in the region by her sister ship HMS Lancaster which has been on patrol in the Strait of Hormuz with the US Navy.

Combined Task Force 150 is a multinational task group composed of warships from numerous coalition nations. Their mission is to patrol the Indian Ocean as part of the global war on terrorism.

CTF-150 operates in an area that spans more than two million square miles, covering the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and the Northern Indian Ocean.

The force is said to have been created to counter terrorism, prevent all forms of illegal trafficking, and uphold law and order. Although, anti-piracy is not part of this Force's role; this aspect of maritime security is the responsibility of CTF-151.