How a U.S. Navy Sub Chaser Plane Found Two Missing Mariners

Kyle Mizokami
·2-min read

From Popular Mechanics

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft found a pair of missing mariners on Monday. The two men had failed to come home on time after a fishing trip, sparking a rescue effort that involved the Japan-based P-8 aircraft.

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The aircraft, designed to stay aloft for hours to detect enemy submarines, is turning out to be particularly good at rescuing people who have gone astray.

Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

The incident took place in the central Pacific Ocean in the Northern Mariana Islands. The mariners had departed the island of Saipan on a 21-foot fishing vessel on the morning of November 26. The men were declared overdue when they failed to return on schedule. A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon operating from Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa was dispatched to assist with the search.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy
Photo credit: U.S. Navy

According to the Guam Daily Post, the P-8 located the boat and crew on the second leg of a search pattern 128 miles west of the island of Tinian in the Philippine Sea. The Poseidon kept watch over the boat and crew until the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard was able to reach them.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy
Photo credit: U.S. Navy

This isn't the first time a Poseidon has rescued wayward mariners. In 2016, a P-8 located three men shipwrecked on Fanadik Island, approximately 300 miles south of Tinian. The three men had been stranded for three days and had made the words “HELP” out of palm fronds. And in 2018, a Poseidon located fishermen who had been adrift at sea for 8 days. The aircraft deployed an air-droppable UNIPAC II survival kit—with food, water, and communications for up to 16 people—to the fishermen.

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The P-8 Poseidon is the U.S. Navy’s latest maritime patrol plane. One of the P-8’s primary missions is to locate enemy submarines, and the airplane is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical sensors designed to locate enemy subs and their periscopes across the vastness of the open sea.

The combination of sensors and long range is a tremendous use to searchers looking for tiny fishing boats—or words made out of palm fronds—across the central Pacific Ocean.

In mass rescue operations, a P-8 is capable of dropping the new UNIPAC III survival package, which includes food, water, and communications for up to 100 people.

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