The Royal Australian Navy has seized almost eight tonnes of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin from drug smugglers in the Arabian Sea, in a Christmas season operation which turned up a bounty with an estimated $415 million value.

Between Wednesday and Friday this week, the crew of the HMAS Warramunga intercepted and boarded three suspect vessels in an operation planned and coordinated by the Combined Maritime Forces' Combined Task Force.

The drug haul includes the largest quantity of hashish seized by an Australian ship on Middle East maritime security operations.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Warramunga, Dugald Clelland, said planning for the operation had been underway for months.

1280px US Navy 100707 N 0641S 247 HMAS Warramunga FFH 152 departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam to support Rim of the Pacific RIMPAC 2010 exercises

"The crew prepared extensively for a task like this and we were able to employ our helicopter and boarding crews to locate and board three suspect vessels."

"A thorough search by the boarding parties uncovered a large quantity of hashish and heroin intended for distribution around the world," Commander Clelland said.

The seizures will have a significant impact on both a national and global scale, the Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East John Frewen said.

"These drug seizures support Australia's long-term mission to ensure maritime security and stability in the region." "This operation will impact on the flow of narcotics around the world and the use of drug money to fund extremist organisations," he said.

The illegal drugs have been moved onto HMAS Warramunga and will be disposed of at sea.

HMAS Warramunga is involved in the Australian government's Operation MANITOU, which supports international efforts to implement maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.

The ship is on its third deployment as part of Operation MANITOU

Source: smh.com.au        photos Department of Defence