In a four-month span, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) has proven itself a formidable force against narcotics trafficking, with 10 drug seizures totalling over 3,300 kilograms.
It started with the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Arunta on March the 2nd, when the crew seized 800 kilograms of cannabis. Eleven days later on March the 131th, the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon seized 270 kilograms of heroin and then again on the 17th, when the crew seized 500 kilograms of hashish.
The French frigate FS Surcouf added to the list with seizures that collectively totalled nearly 400 kilograms of heroin from two dhows between April 28th and the 3rd of May.
On May the 10th Arunta confiscated another 250 kilograms heroin from a small dhow. The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun and the US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City seized another 12 kilograms of cocaine on May 16th.
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 18th.
On May 26th, Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth seized 455 kilograms of cannabis resin and 266 kilograms of heroin.
Vice. Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) said:
“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.”
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-UK 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.
Vital to the detection of the drug smugglers in the vastness of the Indian Ocean are the coalition maritime patrol aircraft such as the French Marine Nationale F50, Royal Danish Air Force C604, Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3C, and UK Royal Navy Sea King helicopters operating from the fleet replenishment ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Victoria.
These aircraft provide support to CTF 150 through surveillance of the sea lanes and their ability to direct warships to the dhows suspected of trafficking narcotics. CMF officials estimate that a street value of over $300 million-worth of narcotics has been confiscated from March to May. The confiscation of such a large quantity of illicit drugs aims to prevent transnational terrorists and other extremist groups from profiting from the drug trade.