GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 December) — The United States (US) government has dispatched one its maritime surveillance aircrafts to augment the ongoing search and rescue operations for hundreds of fishermen from this city and nearby Sarangani province who went missing at the height of the Typhoon Pablo last week.
City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, chair of the Task Force Maritime Search and Rescue-SarGen (Sarangani/General Santos City), said Thursday the US embassy in Manila has commissioned a P-3C Orion aircraft of the US Navy to help search for possible survivors along the high seas off the Pacific Ocean and Indonesia’s territorial waters.
She said the deployment of the P-3C Orion aircraft was facilitated by officials of the US Agency for International Development, which has been assisting the relief operations for typhoon victims in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
“This will be a big help to us since the aircraft will enable the rescue teams to cover a wider portion of the search area at the soonest possible time,” the mayor said in a press briefing.
A US Navy website described the P-3C Orion as a “four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.”
It was originally designed as a “land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol aircraft and has evolved in the late 1990s and early 21st century to include surveillance of the battle space, either at sea or over land.”
It has a long range and a long loiter time, and has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging (DIFAR) sonobuoys and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment, it said.
Navy Commander Lued Lincuna, task force spokesperson, said the P-3C Orion is very ideal for maritime search and rescue operations as it has longer endurance or loiter time when compared to other aircraft.
He said they did not consider utilizing rescue choppers for the operation since their normal loiter time could only last around three hours.
“Its (P-3C Orion) flight time could last 16 hours and it could fly closer to the search area being a fixed wing aircraft,” he told MindaNews.
Lincuna said Philippine Navy and Air Force personnel are quite familiar with the P-3C Orion since they were used by the US Navy during the past Pagsasama and joint Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT exercises in the country.
Lincuna said the aircraft, which was dispatched from a US Navy base in Japan, arrived at the Philippine Air Force’s Villamor air base in Pasay City on Thursday morning and will fly to Davao City later in the day.
He said the P-3C Orion will be temporarily based at the Davao City airport to facilitate easier refueling for the aircraft and the billeting of its pilots. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)