Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon seized 49kg of heroin – her fifth drugs bust in three months in the Gulf say the MoD.

According to a news release:

“The Portsmouth-based ship made the seizure as she returned to maritime security operations on the notorious drug smuggling route known as the ‘Hash Highway.’

The Class-A drugs, which have been destroyed, would have had a street value of £9m. The sale of these drugs is a known source of funding for terrorist organisations and criminal networks.”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Heroin destroys lives but, thanks to the tireless work of HMS Dragon’s crew, these criminals will not be distributing this poison and will instead face justice.

These drugs would have had a wide distribution network across the globe, highlighting exactly why we are committed to the region – because Gulf security is our security.”

Pilot Lieutenant Scott Sunderland of 815 Naval Air Squadron said:

“We spotted a contact at range using our radar and, on closing, the flight observer was able to use the electro-optical device on the aircraft to provide high-quality images of the suspect dhow.”

Dragon immediately launched her sea boats and, following a search of the dhow by the Royal Navy and 42 Commando Royal Marines boarding team, the drugs were found hidden in the vessel.


  1. ‘The Class-A drugs, which have been destroyed, would have had a street value of £9m. The sale of these drugs is a known source of funding for terrorist organisations and criminal networks.”’

    Presumably they are destroyed as they cant be used in legal medication or some such?

    • the Drugs are funny enough made in illegal factories, by people who probably cant even spell their name and often in a third word country at that, which means even if they did have some medical value. you would want to use them as such due to the poor standards it produced to. basically you have no idea what’s in the drugs.

      • Funnily enough in a lot of cases the drugs are tested prior to destruction, according to google anyway , so what you’re saying is not necessarily true, especially when it comes to drugs like hash ( is that what its called now?) that are grown rather than drugs that are concocted.

        I googled it and cant find any answer as to why, just how.

        Probably more expensive to make the seized drugs fit for use rather than start from scratch? Or is it a legal thing? Is there an El Chapo out there that knows?

        • “Probably more expensive to make the seized drugs fit for use rather than start from scratch?”

          Almost certainly. Drugs are strictly licensed which involves submitting data to demonstrate efficacy (does it work?), safety (are the side effects acceptable?) and other stuff including consistency of formulation before a license is issued that makes it legal to market it in a particular country or region.

          The haul mentioned in this article was Heroin which is an old drug so is no longer exclusively produced by a single company that holds the original (now expired) patent but is now produced by a number of “generic” manufacturers which drives the price of legally licensed stuff down. The issue here is that if HMG were to attempt to turn illegal stuff into stuff that could be legally prescribed in the U.K. (or pretty much anywhere else in the world) they would essentially be launching a new generic version of the drug and would need to get it licensed.

          As a generic manufacturer they don’t need to explicitly re-demonstrate safety or efficacy (which involves running trials where the costs can go into many tens of millions of pounds to complete, often hundreds of millions to get to final approval), they can cite the original safety and efficacy data submitted by the original patent holder provided that they can demonstrate that their new product exhibits what is called “bioequivalence” to the original. That still involves some costs, going through an approval process, and having a tightly controlled production process that produces the compound for which they are claiming bioequivalence. I just can’t see it being possible to create a consistent formulation path when the starting point would be so variable depending on which drug lord’s drugs had just been intercepted.

          In short, it would be crippling expensive to get licensing approval for the end product to be legally prescribable and they could probably never demonstrate a consistent formulation path anyway.

          On the other point, my guess (and this bit is just a guess) is that the reason they test seized drugs is more a sort of scene-of-crime thing to get try to find unique properties of various batches (a sort of chemical fingerprint) to help track supply chains & distribution channels and find out who are the big producers.

          P.S. I’m not an El Chapo, it’s all legal! Quite a few of my oldest and closest friends are pharmacologists still working in drug development (which is the process of gathering the data to get the required licenses to market new drugs) so I’ve spent decades hearing about this stuff from them at parties, in the pub, etc.

    • Captain sorry to burst your bubble on this one but…….Lara Croft is actually a computer generated animation and as such is infact neither a heroine or in anyway connected to a bust.

      Hard I know, but that’s life.

  2. Good work. The future will see these constabulary interceptions being done more cheaply by RM embarked on Type 31 or even a River 2 with Scan Eagle, leaving T45 free for task force escort duties.

    • I agree although River 2 plus Scan Eagle (or similar UAV) needs HMG to actually invest in suitable drones. The last news I heard on that was a couple of years or so ago when further funding for the RN ScanEagle evaluation project was pulled. Does anyone have any more up to date (and hopefully more encouraging) news on this area?

      A good containerised drone that could be loaded onto a River 2 and the container act as a hangar so that it could be maintained on board could make it an excellent platform for these sorts of operations. River 2 has space for a standard 20’ ISO container either side of the crane without encroaching on the flight deck and it has onboard storage for aviation fuel.

        • Probably the high flight deck and hanger footprint to stow the launch and recover gear and the boxed drones. Add to that you needed civvy US Staff onboard to operate it which took up bed space and meant the AIR EMR on a T23 was converted to a bunk space.

  3. High lights why we need the T31, the T45 should not be doing this sort of work. Also, fair play for the haul, but that’s my weekend ruined 😜

    • She’s in the gulf on a major middle East deployment on maritime security duties and anti smuggling, so T45 is the very best asset to be in on those water’s, on that kind of deployment.

    • She’s in the gulf on a major middle East deployment, providing maritime security and anti smuggling duties. Catching drug runners us only a small part of her deployment activities.

      • Of course. Which is fine when there is nothing else.
        But when the QEC is in use and deployed will that still be the case?

        I sincerely hope 1SL follows up on his Galipoli speech and the T45 T26 is tied to the carriers and ARG.

        After all, there are many comments on here about a lack of escorts.

        If the RN reforms how it does it’s business there could be.

          • And did I say that? Did I?

            No. I did not say that they would.

            But if 2 out of 6 were ready at any one time they could.

            Provided there are other assets to free them up for their primary role.

            Using the Bays spread to the four winds rather than what they were designed for is another example.

            How can the carrier be escorted if the few assets we have are used elsewhere?

            Again I emphasise I understand that is not possible now as we do not have T31 neither a deployable QEC.

            Are we really saying that 2 out of 6 T45 and 2 out of hopefully 8 T26 are unable to be ready at any one time to be an escort? Bearing in mind navy planners plot these things way in advance?

            Because if that is so the RN is more screwed than I thought.

  4. I agree totally, Anthony D. Something is very very wrong here if we have to justify these fabulous assets in this way. As for recycling, £9m street value is probably your average credit card limit at wholesale value. And pure pharmaceutical heroin (diamorphine) costs next-to-nothing to make. Why risk lives? Morphine is probably the most efficacious painkilling drug that exists. But it needs to 100% pure.

    Tell the boys to smoke it or dump it, Gavin. And stop it with these trivial soundbites.

    • I agree £1bn salt water cop car etc but what should the escort ships do whilst there is no aircraft carrier to escort?
      Sail up and down looking pretty with rear admiral Sir StJohn Smedley Smythe offering ferrero rocher to foreign nobs? Maybe a spot of game fishing? Stay in port n save fuel? Or go out and take the crew and do something they train for and something useful?

      Just sayin.

      • I think T45 will get Aster 30 NT Block 1 abilty to intercept IRBM and T26 will get a land strike missile: significant defensive and offensive gunboat diplomacy short of an expeditionary or carrier strike task force.

    • It’s not about the drugs itself which as you say can be produced very cheaply. it’s about the fact it’s ilegal so the criminals behind it make a fortune need to be stopped. the reason it’s ilegal is that hard drugs shattered lives, destroy societies and kill people, simple as. As the Chinese what happens if the hard drugs market is legalised and commercialised (it’s one of the less good bits of our imperial history).

      When you have seen the dead and shattered it becomes a wee bit more of an issue, as for legalising hard drugs that I’m afraid is crap, governments should never legalise killing their own populations.

  5. Johnathan, I agree with absolutely never legalising class A drugs.

    The issue appears to be ( at least we’re I live) that they have been legalised by an apthathetic Police view of never acting on drugs for personal use.

    The net result is youngsters ( and older idiots who should know better) doing cocaine, with an apparent green light given by zero arrests and prosecutions.

    The net result is boom times for the drug trade and if the RN had 100 T45’s, it couldn’t stop a fraction of the supply.

    A simple case of supply and demand, it’s how market economies have run since Roman times and long before.

    The answer?

    Guaranteed jail time is required for personal use (no exceptions)…. Not enough jail space? Then build more…

    An international war on drugs, with an anti ISIS style shoot to kill approach on Cartels and the networks that make up the supply chain using all available assets.

    Collapse the market, collapse the industry.

    Snowflake politics will never allow such a policy unfortunately, so the drug trade will continue to blight the users families, the huge amount of crime attributed to drugs will continue to cast a long shadow over people’s lives the world over.

    Just stating the bleeding obvious really….

      • Quite Elliott, unfortunately, the majority just make excuses for regular drug abusers, it’s called an ‘illness’.

        We all know people who have bravely fought cancer, that’s an illness, to suggest that self inflicted drug addiction is an illness, is just plain insulting!

        Regarding using T45’s for anti drug patrols, it’s an extremely expensive folly in my opinion.

        It’s like the postman using a 30 ton articulated lorry to deliver the morning post!

        Still the lack of assets is the real issue, with few escorts and our so called ‘Amphibians ready group’ scattered to the four winds.

    • Hi john

      The problem with drugs is that demand is created by a number of factors:

      1) The young, the human brain at a certain age has a real problem access risk and the balance of craving new experiences/taking risks does not balance out against knowing something is stupid until around 25 (it’s what drives the death rate in young males).
      2) Mental health, poorly treated mental health can and does lead to self medication
      3) Addiction is complex and needs to sorted linked to all sorts of social issues
      4) suppliers create demand from all the above and once you are on the hook physical dependency is a stone cold bitch.

      For me you need to attack from all sides:

      1) consider the manufacturers and major distributors of drugs as significant security risks at the same level as terrorists and hold them to account at that level (up to an including lethal force) that should also includes holding nations that harbour major organisations or don’t do anything about them to account.
      2) remove the market, by: having great mental health services, an appsolute focus on making hard drug use unacceptable within all areas of society, dealing with issues that create addiction (most addiction occurs in areas of deprivation).
      3) not accepting drug use, addicts should not be left, not up for prison for addicts but they need to be deprived of their liberty in a treatment centre until they are clear and in recover.
      4)The local dealers should have harsh sentencing unless they are found to be trafficked\modern slaves(many are), at which point a more focus and supportive system is needed.
      4) traffickers and larger dealers should have sentencing as per muderers, life + they were in it for the cash and happy to destroy lives, locked up and never let out sounds about right to me.

      • Johnathan, excellent points, made better than mine.

        We need a very robust approach, across the full spectrum of the drugs trade, I would agree drugs and the vile drug trade that snakes across the world, bringing death and misery to millions, should be treated in the same way as international terrorism.

        It really concerns me that it seems to be going the other way, the Police just don’t appear to care anymore, just given up on the war on drugs.

    • Bush was not interested in the Poppies.

      The poor farmers make more money this way.

      If others want to harm themselves with the stuff they care not.

  6. Just thinking. Using a £1 billion advanced air defence destroyer for these counter narcotics patrols is a bit of a waste. These missions are precisely why we need a capable type 31 frigate in enough numbers 10+ hulls.

      • In time? Can someone explain to me how re-engining the entire T23 fleet while havung the T31 program progress at such a glacial pace creates an effective, value for money RN.
        Signed a humble, eager to learn taxpayer.

        • Send a FOIA request Paul the response would be interesting!

          I used to send lots then I think they got fed up as I stopped getting replies.

          Probably illegal but there you go.

  7. Always good news but as always the announced street values are over inflated. Doesn’t solve the problem that is an issue of supply and demand; reduce the demand and you’ll reduce the problem but it’s easier to blame Latin Americans than solve our drug problems.

    • Russ just because we have issues that drive addiction, does not remove the fact people who profit from the manufacture and distribution of something that causes death on a large scale need to held to the sharpest account.

      The peddler is never innocent unless forced to peddle.

  8. I sincerely hope this is a thinly-veiled cover story for more worthwhile and warlike reasons to be in existence (as Robert Blay suggests) because this sort of story generally just gets on my nerves – as many have said, the optics of a billion quid customs cutter seem silly. What’s more, someone, somewhere has decided that constabulary and HADR jobs make good PR – I’m less sure as most of my Son’s mates are far more into things that are, and I quote, “Badass”.

  9. The units doing the busts are all deployed as part of a CTF 150 taskgroup which is one of 3 CTFS out here. Some units such as Dragon temporarily drop in or out the various CTF’s depending on where they are operating. The RAN has HMAS BALLARAT there at present …she has had lots of success intercepting drug smugglers. HMAS Warramunga last year had a massive list of intercepts. There are Canadian , Pakistan French units all doing there stuff as well. The French also had a huge haul recently.
    The above link Has more details.

    Interesting to see the Pakistan unit PNS Tariq, was the former HMS Ambuscade. Still going strong despite being nearly 45years old! She was still looking ok when I walked past her…a little bit battered on the hull plate but otherwise well armed and well maintained. 4.5 gun, Sea sparrow, Phalanx, new radars and ew fit plus the help.

  10. Regarding using a £1 billion air defence destroyer for drug smuggling duties, when there’s no current need for an air defence destroyer to actually be in action, what’s best, yet another exercise in controlled circumstances, or real live action where the other side is unpredictable?

  11. What are the typical deployability expectations for a complex warship such as T45? I hear figures of 1 deployable out of every 3 actual vessels giving 2 of our T45s typically deployable at any given time. Is that generally accurate? Is whatever the actual T45 figure is good or bad vs US deployability rates for ABs or Ticos?

    How is the figure/estimate arrived at? I can immediately imagine that at least one in every 6 vessels would be in fairly deep maintenance at any given time thus not available probably even in a crisis situation e.g. outbreak of war. Presumably other units are typically not deployable due to either being in more minor maintenance (of a few months?) or doing a work-up prior to a deployment (which I assume is a peace-time luxury they would be at least severely curtailed if not dispensed with entirely in time of war). What other issues take vessels out of the “deployable” category? For the RN I suspect that crew shortages might well permanently keeps one vessel off the list In addition to those taken off the list for other reasons but maybe that isn’t the case.

    I’m curious to know how this all works in a bit more detail that the “1 in 3” rule of thumb that I keep hearing.


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