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UK: HMS Iron Duke Scuppers Drug-running Suspects

Ministry Of Defence (UK)

HMS Iron Duke Scuppers Drug-running Suspects

Royal Marines in a helicopter from HMS Iron Duke opened fire to stop a fleeing speedboat strongly suspected by international law enforcement agencies of being involved in Caribbean drug smuggling.

The commando marksmen on board the Lynx aircraft at first fired warning shots after the 40 mph 'Go Fast' vessel ignored radio and visual warnings to halt. When it still continued to flee, the Royal Marines employed 'Non-Lethal Disabling Fire', aiming five rounds at the vessel's engine block and successfully disabling the engine and stopping the boat.

Iron Duke had been on maritime security patrol 110 miles north of the Venezuela-Colombia coast on the afternoon of Friday, July 18, when she became aware that the Go Fast was loitering in the area. At the time, the ship's Lynx was preparing to get airborne on a training flight and was diverted to investigate.

Despite the Go Fast's crew attempting to avoid detection by spreading a tarpaulin to camouflage the 30ft vessel, the Lynx located it after a 15-minute search. The boat was fired on as a last resort, the Royal Marines using high-power long range rifles to successfully disable it.

When Iron Duke arrived on the scene, the three crew members were taken on board and the Go Fast sunk on the authority of the US Coast Guard team on board the frigate. They found traces of cocaine on two of the three men. As they were Colombians they were eventually transferred to the Colombian authorities.

While no cocaine was found on board the vessel or in the sea, the US Coast Guard knows that it is common practice for drug smugglers to ditch their illicit cargoes in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

The incident, which spanned 48 hours, was the second anti-drugs success for the Portsmouth-based warship. Last month she seized 0.9 tonnes of cocaine from another Go Fast vessel. During these early stages of her Caribbean deployment, in between sustained periods of counter-drugs patrols, she has also stopped a vessel smuggling fuel, assisted a fishing vessel in danger of sinking and has tracked four tropical storms or hurricanes as well as conducting training with local authorities in disaster relief on the island of Montserrat.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Iron Duke, Commander Mark Newland, said today: "This first 30-day patrol of our Caribbean deployment has been an enormous success. My ship's company are elated at again disrupting the activities of suspected drug-runners."

"The skill and professionalism of my helicopter crew, and in particular the young Royal Marines who fired the rounds to stop the Go Fast is an indication of the talents that lie within the Naval Service."

NOTES

Details on the Long Range Rifle used by the Royal Marine Sniper - 0.50inch L121A1 AW50.

The British-made L121A1, 0.50inch calibre rifle, from the Accuracy International (AI) family of bolt action rifles, is regarded by many as one of the best long range anti material rifles in the world with a range beyond 2000m. It was selected for the British military after extensive and rigorous tests on its accuracy and reliability for the initial role as an EOD rifle, which enabled the Bomb Disposal teams to accurately neutralise an explosive devise at a safe distance. The bullet can either be armour-piercing or incendiary, depending on the type of target.

These rifles are now being used by the Royal Marines Maritime Sniper Teams, deployed from naval helicopters from Royal Navy warships in the counter-smuggling role. In this role a red dot EOTEC sight is used, due to the shorter range that is required to engage the boats, Its impressive accuracy and energy displacement mean that it is used to shoot and disable the engines in drug smugglers' speed boats.

One example of this happened in November 2005 when a Lynx helicopter from the Royal Navy frigate HMS CUMBERLAND intercepted a suspected drugs runner in international waters off the Nicaraguan coast. When the speedboat failed to stop, several shots, from the Sniper Team aboard the Lynx, disabled the smuggler's speedboat. A boarding team, riding in a RIB from the frigate, then approached and searched the vessel and arrested the crew.

ENDS

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