U.S. Pacific Command has authorized the Navy’s USS Fort Worth Littoral Combat Ship for potential assistance in ongoing search and recovery operations regarding AirAsia Flight QZ8501, Pentagon officials said.
The flight, from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, went missing Sunday. Debris and bodies from Air Asia Flight 8501 were found Tuesday in the Java Sea about 160 miles from land.
It remains unclear whether the Fort Worth will be formally tasked to help with search and recovery efforts now that the fallen aircraft has been located. Nevertheless, the ship, currently on deployment in Singapore, is equipped with surface warfare technologies, a MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter and a MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical-take-off unmanned aircraft system.
“We have looked to push our newest and most capable platforms forward in support of this important effort to help our partners and friends in the region during this time of tragedy,” said Navy spokesman Lt. Timothy Hawkins.
The Fort Worth’s surface warfare package of integrated technologies also includes 11-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, or RHIBs, and 30mm guns.
“If the Fort Worth does get underway, the intent is to deploy two Klein-5000 RHIB-towed side scan sonars to accompany dive personnel aboard the USS Fort Worth to help support the search operation,” Hawkins said.
Authorities in the region continue to lead the search and rescue effort, which already discovered aircraft debris and bodies.
The U.S. Navy is working closely with the government of Indonesia to identify additional surface or airborne capabilities that best assist their search efforts. For instance, Pentagon officials said Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes were also authorized to assist with search efforts.However, now that the wreckage has been identified it is unclear if the Indonesians will still need assistance.
“When Indonesians asked for everything it was right after the plane went missing. You don’t need deep water radar if the wreckage is only in 50-meters of water,” a Pentagon official told Military.com.
If there is wreckage floating in shallow water, the submarine-hunting surveillance technologies of the Navy’s P-8 may not be needed.
Pentagon and Indonesian authorities are currently considering whether any additional U.S. technologies or assets may be needed.
Meanwhile, the USS Sampson (DDG 102), a Navy destroyer, is already in the area to provide authorities with search and rescue assistance. The USS Sampson is equipped with two MH-60R helicopters.