A group of drug traffickers were stopped in their tracks after a Royal Marines sniper took out a speedboat carrying millions of pounds of cocaine.
In the climax of a dramatic six-hour chase across the Caribbean, the British sniper fired more than a dozen rounds at the bow of the speedboat from a helicopter.
In total, 14 bales of drugs were seized in the operation, which involved the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and US Coast Guard, in waters between Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
In the back of a Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, the sniper first fired warning shots ahead of the speedboat calling on the traffickers to stop.
When the traffickers ignored the shots, the sniper then took out the speedboat’s engines, bringing it to a halt. The boat later sank.
A specialist team of US Coast Guard officers then boarded the speedboat and recovered 14 bales of what they believed were illegal drugs.
Subsequent tests revealed it to be 350kg of cocaine with a wholesale value in the UK of around £14 million.
The crew had been seen earlier ditching several bales overboard, which was estimated to be 650kg of cocaine worth around £26 million.
The Lynx helicopter had launched from the Dorset-based RFA Wave Knight tanker, which is currently assigned to Operation Martillo, the international drugs-busting effort in the Caribbean.
Commanding officer Captain Nigel Budd said: “This seizure highlights how effectively the US Coast Guard and our allied partners are working together to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks that depend on the flow of illicit drugs from South America into the US, the Caribbean and Europe.”