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RFA Fort Rosalie helicopter leads HMAS Warramunga to a 3.5 ton drug bust

By Commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Office of Public Affairs | January 07, 2018


The Anzac-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152), currently operating as part of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), stopped drug smugglers operating in international waters in the Arabian Sea, Jan. 2.

Under the command of the Australian-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, Warramunga conducted a combined patrol with the United Kingdom’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Rosalie (A385) when a suspect dhow was located by Fort Rosalie’s helicopter and subsequently intercepted by Warramunga.

This was Warramunga’s fourth seizure of narcotics since starting operations in the Middle East in support of the Australian Operation Manitou. Commanding officer of Warramunga, Cmdr. Dugald Clelland, emphasized that the operation was the result of close coordination with Fort Rosalie in a complex night operation.

“The [United Kingdom Royal Navy] helicopter was able to guide us to the suspect vessel that Warramunga’s boarding party searched at night, in difficult conditions,
 said Clelland. “The boarding party did a first-rate job and was able to locate and seize more than3.5 tons of illegal narcotics.”

The illicit drugs are valued at more than $142 million, and takes Warramunga’s total seizures since joining CMF in December, to more than 11.5 tons of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin, valued at approximately $468 million USD.

Whilst alongside visiting Salalah, Oman, RFA Fort Rosalie with the embarked 849 Royal Naval Air Squadron (NAS) Normandy Flight were informed of the suspect vessel. Fort Rosalie made rapid preparations and sailed 48 hours early from her planned period alongside.  Fort Rosalie conducted a helicopter sortie with one of its Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASac) Sea King Mk7 helicopters Jan. 2, and found a single dhow acting suspiciously. Flying operations continued throughout the day with the helicopter gaining radar imagery, maintaining oversight of the suspicious dhow, and coordinating with Warramunga.

 “We’re delighted to have been able to contribute to CTF 150’s missions within the joint operations area,” said the f light commander, Lt. Cmdr. Dan Breward, United Kingdom Royal Navy.“There was a massive effort 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.”

Australian commander of CTF 150, Cmdre. Mal Wise, praised the close teamwork between Fort Rosalie and Warramunga and said, “The RN SKASac was essential to locating the suspect vessel in the challenging maritime environment. This close cooperation assisted the crew of HMAS Warramunga in successfully seizing a substantial quantity of narcotics. This highlights the excellent teamwork from nations contributing to CMF operations in the Middle East, and has a significant impact on the flow of illegal narcotics that fund terrorist networks.”

In 2017, CMF ships seized a total of 22.67 tons of narcotics. Visit, board, search and seizure operations at sea require a persistent and methodical approach by CMF Sailors and Marines.

Established in 2002, CTF 150 is primarily focused on disrupting terrorist organizations and their activities by denying them the freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain. In collaboration with international and regional maritime security partners, the CTF 150 teams have seized and destroyed billions of dollars in drugs and captured thousands of weapons, ensuring they are no longer available to organizations which would cause others harm.