Minister for Defence David Johnston visited the centre of air operations supporting the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) led search for missing flight MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce today.
In supporting the AMSA search operations in the southern Indian Ocean, Pearce is now home to four Air Force AP-3C Orions, one Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion and two Japanese Self Defense Force P-3 Orions.
A United States Navy P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and two Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force are supporting the search from Perth airport.
Senator Johnston said the search for any signs of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has been suspended for today due to poor weather conditions in the search area. Low cloud and poor visibility will prevent an air search today and HMAS Success departed the search area early this morning.
Senator Johnston said he was deeply grateful for the efforts of the multi-national pilots, aircrew and maintenance personnel in supporting AMSA’s search operations almost 2,500 km away.
“It has been a privilege for me to meet with these highly skilled professionals from many nations and to gain a first hand appreciation of the difficult task they are undertaking,” Senator Johnston said.
“The challenge of flying to such a remote region and conducting search operations cannot be over-stated. With eight hours of flying to and from the search region, the fleet of P-3 Orion aircraft and other military aircraft have only a precious few hours to scour the search tracks they have been given by AMSA.
“With search operations in the southern Indian Ocean entering their second week, the pilots and air-crew are under incredible pressure to find evidence of the missing aircraft.
“The strong international team here is doing all they can to provide answers for the families of the people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. For this reason, the pilots and aircrew of all nations here at RAAF Base Pearce and flying from Perth Airport are focused on thoroughly searching their designated areas.”
More than half-a-million square kilometers have been searched to date. HMAS Success entered the search area on Saturday and has been conducting surface sweeps of specific areas. Chinese warships and the polar supply ship Xue Long are also enroute to the search area. Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield has also sailed from Sydney enroute to Western Australia so that she will be available to join the search if required.
“We also look forward to the arrival of a C-130H Hercules and P-3C Orion from the Republic of Korea later today as this multi-national team grows,” Senator Johnston said.
Further information on Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is available at: http://www.navy.gov.au/adv-ocean-shield
Mark Dodd (Canberra) 0477 389 560
Rebecca Horton (Perth) 0477 389 554