South Korea is the latest team to deploy an NP-3C Orion to RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Pearce Air Force Base in Perth, Western Australia for the Search operation for MH370. Below are a list, not exhaustive, of the assets involved.
RAAF 4x AP-3C Orion (No.92 Wing)
Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) 2 x P-3C Orion (likely 4th Air Group, Atsugi)
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) 2x P-3K (No.5 Squadron)
People’s Liberation Army Air Force 2x IL-76 TD (13 Transport Division)
Republic of Korea Air Force 1x P-3K Orion
US Navy 1x P-8 Poseidon (VP-16, Kadena)
Civilian Gulfsteam 650
Civilian Syktraders A319
3 other unidentified civilian aircraft.
Sea units include:
-Australian HMAS Replenishment Ship HMAS Success, and Support Vessel Seahorse Standard.
-Chinese Polar Supply Ship Xue Long (Snow Dragon), People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 071 Landing Platform Dock Kunlunshan, Type 052C Destroyer Haikou, and Type 903 Replenishment Ship Qiandaohu
The massive search operation is by far one of the biggest gathering of maritime surveillance aircraft to date, and involves close coordinate, and cooperation from all participants. As Australian Vice Chief Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO mentioned, they are still finding the haystack before finding the needle.
The mentioned aircraft above have only a 2 hours station time before making its 4 hour journey home, to put in context, it is like departing an aircraft from Singapore , for a search mission in Hong Kong.
As spoken before in my previous post, the high tech equipment on these aircraft will be of little use, probably except for their Electro Optic devices for zooming and identification.These P-3 and P-8s are designed to hunt for warships and submarines, huge dense moving metal moving underwater. The sensors like the Magnetic Anomaly Detector, MAD, senses changes n the earth magnetic field caused by the submarine dense ferromagnetic material will probably have some luck detecting steel from the aircrafts’ steel engines and nickel alloys. Else, they will rely on the Mark I Eyeball, and hopefully with a stroke of Lady Luck.
Having said that, the old but still capable P-3 Orion remain to be the standard for maritime patrol aircrafts. It turboprop engines are extremely efficient in lower altitudes, which out performs the turbofan engines in terms of fuel to thrust ratio. This means the Orions can fly lower , more stable and uses fuel more efficiently at search and operation altitudes of 1000-2000ft. If you noticed, virtually all maritime patrol aircraft, except for the P-8 Poseidon, are turboprop powered.
UAV will be of great usage here, unfortunately, Australia’s latest purchase the MQ-4C will not be delivered until 2017. The UAV based on the Global Hawk, has an amazing 30 hours endurance, enabling search operations at the break of light till sunset. Its SATCOM capabilities enable the Triton to transmit visuals to RAAF’s C4 centre almost instantaneously hence enabling the proper responses to identify the debris.
By now the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder will have less than 10 days of battery life left.
The Australian Navy Support Ship, Seahorse Standard will deploy a hydro dynamic microphone, Pinger Locator TPL-25 in search of the black boxes. The 32kg equipment has a operational depth of 6100m and is able to pick up tones between 3.5-50 kHz, the black boxes will transmit a 37.5 kHz tone every second. However, the ship can only conduct the search at a painful 3 knots, with the locator only able to pick up signals of 3km radius.
The search has been shifted northeast to an area 1100km from the original site after receiving numerous new leads. Japanese and Thai satellites since had spotted 300+ pieces of floating debris.
While time is running out, we can only pray for the best and Godspeed to all on station in search for the missing aircraft.