UK landing ship dock embarks US officers for counter-drug missions in the Caribbean

Photo: Royal Navy

UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay has embarked a team of US drug enforcement officers to join the fight against Caribbean drug-running.

An SH65 Dolphin helicopter of the US Coast Guard’s HITRON – Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON – and its counter-narcotics boarding team, the LEDET (Legal Enforcement DETachment) joined the Bay-class ship in Miami, where she spent Christmas and New Year undergoing a spot of maintenance, before sailing for the Dutch territory of Curacao.

The ship and Coast Guard teams used the 1,200-mile crossing to hone combined skills and get used to each other’s ways of working and different equipment.

The LEDET will conduct most board-and-search operations by boat, so Mounts Bay’s Pacific 24 took them out for a ‘spin’ to give them an idea of its speed, manoeuvrability and, most importantly, disembarking to search a suspect craft.

And the Dolphin helicopter has been airborne day and night, culminating in drills involving the helicopter and boats against a simulated ‘Target Of Interest’ (TOI) – actually a small boat crewed by some of the auxiliary’s sailors.

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

Mounts Bay, which was built to provide the Royal Marines with amphibious support on operations around the globe, is the UK’s long-term naval presence in the Caribbean, dedicating the summer and autumn to disaster relief operations in the wake of hurricanes.

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