united kingdom Operation Buckthorn

Lower Thames Estuary

21-dec-18    to    22-dec-18

The 71500 ton mv Grande Tema left Lagos, Nigeria on 10 Dec 2018 with its mixed cargo and 4 alleged stowaways, bound for Londons Tilbury Docks. The stowaways were discovered and confined but later escaped and threatened the vessels crew. The UK Coastguard took the call and UK Maritime Special Forces produced a plan to storm the ship.

An initial move by 658 Sq Dauphin (c/s Titan 21) to Dover Coastguard operations centre was followed by positioning various assets and staging via Poole and Manston. The operation began at around 11pm on 21 Dec when, escorted by 2x 815 NAS Wildcat, X Squadron SBS roped down from 2x Merlin of 846 NAS, just north west of Margate where the vessel had been holding. Operation complete, the vessel continued to Tilbury and the perpetrators were arrested by civil authorities.


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DatesRotary Wing Aircraft UnitModels
    21dec18 UK 658 Squadron Army Air Corps AS365N3 Dauphin 2
    21dec18 to 22dec18 UK 815 Squadron Fleet Air Arm AW159 Wildcat HMA2
    21dec18 to 22dec18 UK 846 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Merlin HC.4
Merlin HC.3i

Not all models shown may have taken part in the Operation

Individual helicopters

Model IDs
AgustaWestland Merlin HC.3 ZJ132     ZJ135    
AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat HMA2 ZZ379     ZZ529    


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