The Smack Track
Inside the Navy’s War: chasing down drug smugglers, pirates and terrorists
by Ian McPhedran
Published by Harper Collins
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781460752920
Ian McPhedran is well known in defence circles through his extensive career in journalism, most recently as the national defence writer for News Corp Australia. In penning this book, he has relied on first hand experience.
He joined the guided missile frigate HMAS Darwin as she embarked on a two week Indian Ocean patrol between Tanzania and the Seychelles, the ship’s seventh and final Middle East deployment, in May 2016.
Prime targets for the operation were drugs and weapons smugglers on what Australian sailors have dubbed ‘the smack track’, hence the title of the book.
Australia is among thirty-one member nations of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) operating in three Combined Task Forces for counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and Gulf security. Within this group of nations, some focus only on counter-piracy rather than narcotics or weapons smuggling.
The issue of jurisdiction complicates matters. There is no scope to prosecute drug smugglers; their illicit cargo is simply confiscated and destroyed.
McPhedran recounts, in graphic detail, the discovery of a heroin haul from one interception with a street value of half a billion dollars. He photographed the packages neatly arranged on the ship’s flight deck.
McPhedran, as an eye-witness to the story he recounts, offers his readers a real insight into the RAN’s operations in the Gulf and the important role Australia is playing in targeting illicit activity on the high seas.