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January 22, 2019

RFA Mounts Bay joins US take-down specialists to combat Caribbean drug-runners

The Royal Navy support ship RFA Mounts Bay has joined forces with specialist US take-down teams from the US Coast Guard (USCG), in order to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean.

By Talal Husseini

The Royal Navy support ship RFA Mounts Bay has joined forces with specialist US take-down teams from the US Coast Guard (USCG), in order to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean.

USCG drug enforcement experts have been deployed to stop illegal narcotics produced in South and Central America from reaching the US and Canada via the Caribbean.

Using its SH65 Dolphin, the USCG’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON (HITRON) team identifies drug smugglers – who typically use small speedboats to transfer narcotics – from the air and relays their location to the Legal Enforcement DETachment team (LEDET), which boards suspected drug vessels.

RFA Mounts Bay commanding officer Captain Angus Bissell said: “Having completed our training and integration package with the USCG teams we are very much looking forward to supporting law enforcement and security in the Caribbean.”

"Having completed our training and integration package with the USCG teams we are very much looking forward to supporting law enforcement and security in the Caribbean."

RFA Mounts Bay’s Pacific 24 team had the opportunity to practice using LEDET’s board-and-search vessels in order to get a feel of their speed and manoeuvrability, as well as the ability to disembark quickly. The two allies also simulated targeting drug smugglers using the USCG’s Dolphin helicopter to identify small boats crewed by their own soldiers.

The Bay-class ship, which was built to support the Royal Marines in global operations, has been present in the Caribbean since 2017, and previously provided disaster relief for seasonal hurricanes in the region.

The USCG met up with RFA Mounts Bay towards the end of last year while the Royal Navy ship was undergoing maintenance. During its 1,200-mile deployment to Curaçao, RFA Mounts Bay and the USCG take-down teams spent time learning how to use each other’s equipment.

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