Royal Navy warship HMS Dauntless has smashed two major drug smuggling operations, seizing 1.2 tonnes of cocaine worth an estimated £140m during a mission targeting traffickers in the Caribbean.
In one operation, the Type-45 destroyer hunted down a 'go-fast' drug smuggling boat, using its Wildcat helicopter to deploy a squad of Royal Marines and a US Coastguard team during a patrol in the Caribbean Sea.
The Royal Marines, working alongside the US Coast Guard, stopped and searched the smugglers' boat – before seizing 1,230kg of cocaine.
HMS Dauntless tracked down the high-speed drug-running boat after picking up the suspicious vessel on its radar.
Responding quickly, the warship approached the vessel and launched its onboard helicopter.
The US Coast Guard team was sent out as Dauntless closed in, and the helicopter provided air support throughout the operation.
HMS Dauntless also supported US Law Enforcement Agencies in tracking an aircraft flying 550kg of cocaine from Venezuela by using her sky-scanning sensors to intercept the plane.
Normally, the Type 45 destroyer's sensors would be used to scan skies for missiles or hostile incoming fighter jets – tracking a drug smuggling aircraft was a first.
The aircraft was intercepted by US Law Enforcement Agencies in the Caribbean who seized the illegal cargo.
HMS Dauntless, a Portsmouth-based warship, had been deployed to the Caribbean Sea to counter drug smugglers alongside the US Coast Guard at the beginning of the summer.
Overall HMS Dauntless has seized more than a tonne of cocaine – worth more than £140m on the streets of Britain.
One of HMS Dauntless' officers who coordinated the operation, and whom cannot be named for security reasons, said: "It shows that not only are we able to disrupt the flow of drugs at sea but have the ability to sense and track air traffic, suspected of transporting drugs.
"This also highlights the importance of taking an interagency approach to counter narcotics, as our US counterparts were able to seize the aircraft upon arrival at its destination."
One of the ship’s team said: "I am proud to be part of a successful team that tracked and identified the vessel. "We see the effect of drugs and the effort it takes to combat it, so it is excellent to tackle the problem closer to the source."
The ship's Commanding Officer, Commander Benjamin Dorrington, said: "I am immensely proud of what we have achieved, with her advanced technology and highly-skilled team, HMS Dauntless is making significant strides in disrupting transnational criminal organisations and protecting the lives of countless individuals affected by the drugs trade."
While on deployment in the Caribbean Sea, HMS Dauntless' crew also had time to clean over 200 kg of dangerous plastic waste from a turtle nesting site on Curaçao Island.
HMS Dauntless will continue to counter the narcotics trade in the region and provide assistance during the hurricane season which runs until November.