Maintaining proficiency and training under real-time scenarios, Number 11 Squadron (No. 11SQN) personnel successfully completed a Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) in the Spencer Gulf, on the southern coast of Australia early this year.
Four P-8A Poseidon aircraft and an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) CL604 Challenger aircraft from COBHAM Special Mission were deployed to conduct the multifaceted exercise with the mission brief: To locate up to four survivors from a fishing vessel that had capsized.
Search and Rescue (SAR) is a core role for 92WG, and aircrew and maintenance personnel from 11SQN used the SAREX to test all aspects of the P-8A capability, from planning and coordination, to logistics and reporting; all of which are fundamental to launch a P-8A in response to a SAR event.
As such, 11SQN launched the four P-8A from RAAF Edinburgh over two days, with each aircraft locating, then deploying a life raft and stores to the simulated survivor.
CO 11SQN, WGCDR Simon van der Wijngaart said that personnel need to ensure they’re not just current in SAR, but are highly proficient.
“This activity provided a realistic opportunity for all personnel to plan, coordinate and employ SAR procedures, and culminated in a live SAR-store deployment to determine the accuracy of our life raft delivery technique,’ WGCDR van der Wijngaart said.
This was also the first opportunity for 11SQN to conduct a coordinated SAREX with COBHAM Special Mission, who have the AMSA contract for aerial SAR in the Australian Search and Rescue Region (SRR).
Operating the CL604 Challenger, COBHAM Special Mission have three aircraft available to provide a rapid response to a SAR event; with the participating aircraft launching and recovering from Essendon Airport in Melbourne.
Mr Glenn Chapman from AMSA Cobham Special Mission said the SAREX provided an excellent opportunity for us to apply AMSA’s maritime SAR capability with Air Force.
“These joint activities ensure we are well placed to work together if needed in the future,’ Mr Chapman said.
As part of the co-ordinated rescue effort, AOC-JPR personnel based in Canberra received regular updates via chat from the P-8A, relaying the information to the JRCC.
The CL604 was also in direct voice and chat communications with the JRCC when they were airborne - maintaining strong and effective communications during the EX.
FLTLT Jayson Nichols from AOC-JPR said the ability to reach the P-8A directly in real-time greatly enhances our speed in both coordinating and relaying time-sensitive information with other SAR agencies.
In addition to the air and ground support elements, South Australia Police (SAPOL) Water Ops unit launched their vessel, Investigator II in the early morning to deploy the training aid - marking the survivor in the water, and to recover all stores dropped from the P-8A and CL604.
Overall, the SAREX achieved mission outcomes due to the commitment and professionalism of the Units and agencies involved including: 11SQN, COBHAM Special Mission, SAPOL Water Operations Unit, 92WG Maritime Patrol Coordination Centre (MPCC), Air and Space Operations Command - Joint Personnel Recovery (AOC - JPR) and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC).