Royal Navy Amphib Returns Home After Helping Seize $500M in Cocaine

RFA Argus (top) with the patrol ship HMS Medway

Published Dec 20, 2020 7:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy amphib RFA Argus has returned home to the UK for a rest and refit period after helping intercept more than $500 million of cocaine 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, and she has served in a secondary counter-narcotics role with American and Dutch forces.

With the patrol ship HMS Medway – which is forward-deployed to the Caribbean on a permanent basis – RFA Argus seized nearly 5,400 kilos of cocaine and a small amount of methamphetamine in eight separate busts over the last three months.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin flew out to join RFA Argus during her transit back to the UK. “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," Radakin said. "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.”

More recently, Argus was involved in disaster relief operations in Honduras following hurricanes Eta and Iota. Her helicopters delivered twenty-four tonnes of food, fresh water and shelters to people in need. The ship’s flight deck was also used by U.S. Army helicopters to fly relief missions into Honduras.

Argus made one final Caribbean drug bust of her patrol shortly before departing for her home port. Her operations room was alerted to a suspect vessel by an American patrol aircraft. The ship’s Wildcat helicopter and a combined Royal Marines and US Coast Guard (USCG) boarding team were dispatched to chase down the suspicious go-fast boat. After a successful board and search operation, the smugglers were detained and 375 kilos of cocaine – worth as much as $40 million in the UK – was seized.