The Royal Navy’s airborne surveillance helicopters in Afghanistan have been instrumental in the seizure and destruction of over 5 tons of Taliban drugs with a ‘street value’ in excess of £6 million.
In recent months the Navy crews of 854 and 857 Naval Air Squadrons have contributed to the capture of 15 suspected insurgents, the recovery of over 6 tons of explosives, hundreds of weapons and radios and, significantly, the seizure and destruction of large amounts of drugs.
Affectionately known as the “Baggers”, the Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC) crews utilise the aircraft’s cutting-edge surveillance radar to track suspicious activity on the ground and feed this vital information other aircraft and a wide range of ground units.
Thanks to information supplied by the Navy helicopters, insurgents in Helmand province suffered a blow to their finance network most recently, following the seizure of 500 kg of wet opium and 40 kg of dry opium, and the arrest and detention of 2 insurgents. The regular interception of narcotics traffic has a real effect on the insurgents, by denying both a source of income and the freedom to move around the area, all of which helps towards improving the safety and security of the Afghan population.
The Commanding Officer of 854 Naval Air Squadron, Lieutenant Commander Paul Harrison, highlighted the demand for the “Baggers”. He said,
“Both the US Marine Corps and British Forces continue to demand our capabilities to strangle insurgent supply routes. The SKASaC continues to surprise everyone, including the most experienced operators, with its long range detections providing surveillance over massive areas of Afghanistan.”