Update from CTF 150

Caption Royal Marine Commandos from HMS Defender approach a suspicious dhow in the Gulf of Oman while patrolling in support of CTF 150. 131 kgs of crystal methamphetamine were subsequently found and seized.

Great start for Australian-led Combined Task Force 150

By Lt(N) Tony Wright,
CTF 150 Public Affairs Officer

In a little over a week, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), led by Australia with a staff of Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders, have conducted a pair of successful boardings netting almost 3.6 metric tonnes of narcotics whose proceeds would have otherwise made their way into the hands of terrorist organizations.

CTF 150, headquartered in the Kingdom of Bahrain, is one of three combined task forces within Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). The 33 member nations of CMF work together to strengthen maritime security in the Middle East Region, conducting maritime security operations, capacity building activities, and regional engagement.

CTF 150’s mission is to disrupt terrorist organizations and their related illegal activities by restricting their freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime domain. The activities of CTF 150 are a critical part of global counter-terrorism efforts, as terrorist organizations are denied a risk-free method of conducting operations or moving personnel, weapons or income-generating narcotics and charcoal.

The Australian-led team’s success began with some bad luck for the smugglers on Friday December 13. French Ship (FS) Courbet, a frigate of the Marine Nationale operating in the Gulf of Oman in direct support of CTF 150, seized 3.5 metric tonnes of hashish from a vessel they had been tracking.

This haul had an estimated regional wholesale value of $1.8 million U.S. dollars.

Less than a week later on December 19, HMS Defender, a United Kingdom Royal Navy destroyer working in direct support of CTF 150 made another bust. A suspicious vessel was first detected using Defender’s shipborne helicopter. Defender then closed in on the dhow and a team of Royal Marine Commandos secured the vessel and its crew. It was then searched by a Royal Navy boarding team who found 131 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine with an estimated regional wholesale value of $280,000 US dollars.

Taken together, the estimated regional wholesale value of these two shipments is over $2 million U.S. dollars; worth many times more on the street.

“In a very short time, we’ve kept a great deal of narcotics from their intended destination,” said Commodore Ray Leggatt, Royal Australian Navy, the Commander of CTF 150. “With this action, and more to come, we are impacting terrorists’ ability to operate in this region and around the world. Along with the decisive actions of Courbet and Defender, our diverse team of Royal Australian, Royal Canadian, and Royal New Zealand Navy professionals have done outstanding work and we have begun this mission with a great deal of momentum that we intend to carry through our deployment.”

CTF 150 has remained on watch and vigilant throughout the holiday period. “We trained for this mission knowing we’d be far from home over Christmas,” said Lt(N) Justin Sowley, a Canadian member of the 24-hour Battle Watch that keeps an eye on the area of operations and helps coordinate the work of ships supporting CTF 150. “It’s the support of our families and friends that keeps us going. Without them, this would be a much harder mission.”

This is the eighth time that Australia has led this mission and this rotation of CTF 150 is expected to run until late March 2020, when another CMF participating nation will take over.