Navy rescues fishermen lost at sea

Three fishermen were rescued after being located by the “Fighting Tigers.” The mariners’ 19-foot skiff was reported missing Feb. 12 after it failed to return from a fishing trip near Chuuk Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Crew members assigned to the “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron Eight (VP-8) rescued three fishermen Feb. 20, whose vessel was adrift in the South Pacific for eight days.

The 19-foot skiff was first reported missing Feb. 12, after it failed to return from a fishing expedition near Chuuk Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia. According to the report, the boat carried food and water, but no safety equipment or radios. Assets from U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam searched for the vessel for several days before requesting assistance from the U.S. Navy.

The “Fighting Tigers” aircrew and maintenance team were tasked to support the search and rescue (SAR) operation, repositioning on short notice from Kadena Air Base, Japan to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The crew flew the Navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, which is equipped with an advanced APY-10 multifunction radar and MX-20 camera system, ideal for searching the 2,100-square-mile area.

The vessel was located after only three hours and the aircrew deployed a UNI-PAC II Search and Rescue (SAR) kit, a new addition to the maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) fleet and the first time the kit had been successfully deployed by a P-8A in real-world SAR operations.

SAR kits are deployed at approximately 500 feet with a 150-yard trailing lanyard to deliver equipment as accurately as possible to survivors in the water. Kits generally include medical supplies, food, water, communications and signaling equipment, but can be configured with additional supplies depending on the mission type.

The three survivors were picked up by a nearby police vessel a few hours after being located by VP-8.

“It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of saving lives – it’s what everyone joins the Navy to do,” said Lt. Miles Schumacher, tactical coordinator of the VP-8 aircrew. “This aircraft allows for a massive step forward in the ability of SAR units to search large areas quickly and effectively, and we were excited to have the SAR kit loaded and be able to prove its effectiveness.”

“We successfully demonstrated the capability of the MPRA community to react quickly and effectively to operational requirements in the farthest corners of the globe,” said Schumacher. “Hopefully, this is just the first of many successful rescues by P-8A Poseidon aircrews.”

Patrol Squadron Eight is currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility conducting theater and national level tasking in support of U.S. 7th Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command.


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