UK, Dutch navies train for joint counter-narcotics ops

A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter worked with HNLMS Groningen of the Royal Netherlands Navy to get ready for operations together in the war against the illegal drugs trade in the Caribbean.

The Wildcat of 815 Naval Air Squadron, from RFA Argus, carried out flying exercises with the Groningen, qualifying the navy fliers to use the Dutch patrol ship as a base for fuel and resupply during counter-narcotics operations.

This will allow the squadron to fly further from support ship Argus, extending their time on security patrols as they hunt for and monitor suspicious activity using their powerful array of sensors.

It means the Wildcat crew now have three ships – the Groningen, Argus and HMS Medway – to use as a lilypad to launch and sustain their operations from.

This was the first time the Groningen had operated with a helicopter since the tragic crash of their NH90 aircraft near Aruba at the end of a coastguard patrol in July, killing two on board.

Lieutenant Gert-Jan van Veen, a Flight Deck Officer in the Royal Netherlands Navy, said: “For us as a ship, but especially for me personally, it was a very important exercise.

“It was the first time that we operated with a helicopter since the tragic crash of our NH90 in July and lost two of our colleagues.

“Therefore, this serial was of key importance to us in order to get used to everything in our team once again.

“We are really happy that it all went well and we’re relieved to operate in a normal and regular way with a helicopter executing deck landing procedures. We are confident for the future to operate with naval helicopters again.

Pilot of the Wildcat, Lieutenant Jim Carver, the Flight Commander for 203 Flight, said: “This exercise was necessary to ensure HNLMS Groningen was suitably prepared to conduct aviation serials prior to joint counter-narcotics operations.

“We can now safely land on, accept fuel and then continue with our tasking. Using the ship as a ‘lilypad’ extends our range, and along with HMS Medway we now have three platforms in the Caribbean that we can fly between.”

The British and Dutch work together with allies to support the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South, which detects and monitors activity to support security operations from their base in Florida.

Photo: Image courtesy: UK Navy