A Royal Marines sniper fired shots at a drug-smuggling go-fast vessel to bring a six-hour, high speed chase to a halt.
The go-fast was carrying more than £40m of cocaine and initially did not respond to warning shots fired from a Lynx helicopter embarked aboard RFA Wave Knight.
A Royal Marine in the back of the helicopter thereafter shot at the boat’s engines disabling its movement.
Fourteen bales of illegal drugs were captured in the combined operation by the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and US Coast Guard in waters between Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Once the vessel stopped, a specialist team of US Coast Guard law enforcement detachment then boarded the suspect craft and recovered 14 bales of what they believed were illegal narcotics; subsequent tests revealed it to be 350kg cocaine with a wholesale value in the UK of around £14m.
Before the boarding team reached the vessel, the crew were observed ditching several bales overboard; US authorities assessed that 650kg of cocaine worth around £26m was discarded, while the go-fast itself subsequently sank.
The bust was sparked by a maritime patrol aircraft sighting the go-fast and directing RFA Wave Knight to intercept.
The tanker, based in Portland in Dorset, is assigned to Operation Martillo, the international drugs-busting effort across the Caribbean.
The five crew of the go-fast plus the haul of drugs were later transferred to the US Coast Guard cutter Richard Etheridge and handed over to authorities in Miami Beach.