RFA Argus returns to the UK after seizing £400m of drugs in the Caribbean

RFA Argus has arrived home in the UK after helping stop more than £400m of drugs reaching Britain’s streets on operations in the Caribbean.

The support ship departed eight months ago to support the region’s British Overseas Territories during hurricane season and the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to carry out counter-narcotics operations.

Alongside patrol ship HMS Medway – the Royal Navy’s permanent forward presence in the Caribbean – Argus seized 5,373kg of cocaine and 28kg of amphetamines worth more than £400m, in eight separate drugs busts in the past three months.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: “I am extremely proud of what RFA Argus has achieved during her deployment. Protecting our overseas territories is a key part of the Royal Navy’s role in defending the UK’s interests worldwide. From countering drug smugglers to delivering humanitarian aid, Argus has proven just how versatile the Royal Navy is, and how valuable our continued forward presence remains.”

Argus returns to her home port of Falmouth this weekend but not before she completed one last drugs bust as she took her own personal tally to more than £377.8m of drugs seized when her operations room was alerted to a nearby suspect vessel by an American patrol aircraft.

The ship’s Wildcat helicopter and a combined Royal Marines and US Coast Guard (USCG) team were quickly dispatched to chase down the suspicious go-fast boat in the Caribbean Sea.

After a successful board and search operation, in which the marines and USCG team took control of the craft, the smugglers were detained and 375kg of cocaine – worth £30m on Britain’s streets – was seized.

RFA Argus’ Commanding Officer, Captain Kevin Rimell, said: “This deployment has delivered unprecedented success in counter-narcotics operations.

“This has been made possible by a team of highly professional and experienced personnel embarked in Argus, the culmination of which has been the support we have delivered to the people of Honduras in the aftermath of two hurricanes.”

Argus has most recently been involved in disaster relief operations in Honduras following the devastation of hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Twenty-four tonnes of food, fresh water and shelters in 101 separate bags were flown into aid stations from Argus by the Commando Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron.

The ship’s aircraft, which includes three Merlins and a Wildcat from 815 Naval Air Squadron, flew intelligence gathering sorties over ravaged areas to inform decisions made by US Southern Command – who are coordinating relief operations in Honduras.

The ship’s spacious flight deck was also used by US Army helicopters to fly missions into Honduras.

That came at the end of a busy Caribbean patrol in which Argus was a reassuring presence to British Overseas Territories during hurricane season and the Covid global pandemic.

The ship visited and carried out exercises in Bermuda, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands to prepare for potential aid missions.

Argus also worked closely with HMS Medway and French, Dutch and US allies during patrols of the region.

Argus’ versatile crew was made up of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors, an air group of helicopters and personnel from 845, 815 and 1700 Naval Air Squadrons, plus Royal Marines from 47 Commando and soldiers from 24 Commando Royal Engineers.

They now return home for Christmas as Argus enters refit.

I am extremely proud of what RFA Argus has achieved during her deployment. Protecting our overseas territories is a key part of the Royal Navy’s role in defending the UK’s interests worldwide. From countering drug smugglers to delivering humanitarian aid, Argus has proven just how versatile the Royal Navy is, and how valuable our continued forward presence remains.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin