Prince William in his Royal Navy uniform
07/02/2008 at 09:00 AM EDT
took part in a major drug bust in the North Atlantic, it was revealed Wednesday.
The prince, 26, was part of a six-man crew in a Lynx naval helicopter that spotted a suspicious 50-ft. speedboat in the seas northeast of Barbados on Saturday, a naval spokesman tells PEOPLE.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard – who are stationed on the ship alongside William – then boarded the boat and discovered cocaine bales worth an estimated $80 million. The five men on board have been arrested.
The prince, who is a Royal Navy sub-lieutenant based on the frigate HMS Iron Duke, was "rather fortuitously" on board the Lynx as part of his training, insiders say.
"He is a junior officer, there purely to gain experience," said a Ministry of Defense spokesman. "But he played a full part along with all the others in the crew."
In all, the officers confiscated 45 bales of cocaine, weighing around 1,800 lbs. The Royal Navy suspects the drugs were en route to Europe or West Africa,
The prince, who turned 26 last month
, is on a two-month deployment with the Royal Navy
. It's part of William's ongoing effort to familiarize himself with all aspects
of the armed forces.