Bahrain-based CTF 150 breaks drug-busting records

Sailors assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team and U.S. Coast Guardsmen assigned to the Maritime Security Response Team prepare to board a vessel to conduct a VBSS exercise. Photo: US Navy

Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 of the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces achieved a record number of drug interceptions in a four-month span, with 10 drug seizures totaling over 3,300 kilograms of heroin, cocaine, cannabis resin and hashish since March.

It started with the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) on March 2, when the crew seized 800 kilograms of hashish, a drug made from cannabis.

Eleven days later on March 13, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) seized 270 kilograms of heroin and then again on March 17, when the crew seized 500 kilograms of hashish. All seizures were from small stateless dhows in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

The French frigate FS Surcouf (F711) added to the list with seizures that collectively totaled nearly 400 kilograms of heroin from two dhows between April 28 and May 3.

On May 10, Arunta confiscated another 250 kilograms heroin from a small dhow. The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) and the U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) seized another 12 kilograms of cocaine on May 16.

Led to another dhow by a Royal Danish Air Force maritime patrol aircraft operating in direct support of CTF 150, Surcouf then made another seizure of 116 kg of heroin on May 18.

On May 26, Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth (F235) seized 455 kilograms of cannabis resin and 266 kilograms of heroin. Two weeks later, on June 8, Arunta made another seizure of 280 kilograms of heroin. Collectively as a task force, coalition warships have seized 3,349 kilograms of illegal substances since March.

“Ultimately the continued successes of CTF 150 demonstrate the value of the multinational collective of like-minded nations that make up the Combined Maritime Forces and certify that when navies work together, all nations profit with increased maritime security,” said Vice. Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

CTF 150 is one of three task forces under the CMF, and its mission is to promote maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements. CTF 150 has been led by French Marine Nationale Rear Admiral Olivier Lebas since April, supported by a combined French-U.K. staff. Participation in CTF 150 is purely voluntary on the part of each of the CMF’s 31 nations. Prior to Lebas, CTF 150 was led by Royal Canadian Navy Commodore Haydn Edmundson.

In collaboration with international and regional maritime security partners, CTF 150 teams have seized and destroyed billions of dollars in drugs and captured thousands of weapons since its inception in 2002, ensuring they are no longer available to organizations that would cause others harm.

“This is the French navy’s tenth time in command of CTF 150, and I am delighted by the successes that the CMF ships and aircraft operating in support of CTF 150 have enjoyed so far this time round. We will continue to work tirelessly to suppress terrorist activities by attacking the networks that fund them, and deter the unlawful use of the seas in this area of the world,” said Lebas.

CMF is a 31-nation naval partnership which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 3.2 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. CMF’s main focus areas are defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation, and promoting a safe maritime environment.

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