The U.S. Navy on Tuesday assisted in the rescue three fishermen who spent eight days adrift aboard their 19-foot skiff in the South Pacific.
The fishermen were first reported missing on February 12 after they failed to return from a fishing trip 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, which tasked crewmembers assigned to the “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron Eight (VP-8) to conduct the search.
The VP-8 aircrew, using a P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft, located the boat within just three hours and successfully dropped a UNI-PAC II Search and Rescue (SAR) kit to the survivors.
The UNI-PAC II kit is a new addition to the Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft fleet and contains items like medical supplies, food, water, communications and signaling equipment, among other items. The kit is deployed at approximately 500 feet with a 150-yard trailing lanyard to deliver equipment as accurately as possible to survivors in the water. In this case, the deployment actually marks the first time the kit had been successfully deployed by a P-8A in real-world SAR operations.
The three survivors were picked up by a local police vessel a few hours after being located Navy aircrew.
“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. Hopefully, this is just the first of many successful rescues by P-8A Poseidon aircrews.”