Saturday, March 8, 2014

Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident: RSAF C-130 Hercules involved in aerial search

22:00 hrs update
Malaysian Defence Minister Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has reportedly accepted an offer by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Minister for Defence, to deploy the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) submarine rescue vessel, Swift Rescue, in support of Malaysia's search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 MH370 (registration 9M-MRO).

Swift Rescue has a helipad for a medium-left helicopter (Super Puma or Seahawk). The search grids for the missing airliner are about a day's sailing time away from Changi Naval Base, where Swift Rescue is usually berthed.

It is possible Swift Rescue will work alongside the Tentera Diraja Laut Malaysia (TLDM, Royal Malaysian Navy) SubMarine Escape and Rescue (SMER) support vessel, Mega Bakti.

The Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) and the SAF have enjoyed close and meaningful ties recently. Closer defence relations between the two forces have led to cross deployments of warplanes (RSAF F-16s to Kuantan and TUDM Hawks 200s to Changi Air Base) and, more recently, the cross decking of naval helicopters on each other's warships during the Eksesais Malapura naval war games.

Senang Diri understands the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has placed other assets on a short notice to move. See earlier post below. Stayed tuned for more.

18:08 hrs update:
The next hour will prove critical for search and rescue (SAR) teams looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines airliner Flight MH370.

The approaching sunset, which is estimated at 7:19pm for Kuantan and 7:23pm for Kota Bharu, will make it more challenging for SAR teams once darkness veils the South China Sea.

Searches can continue after nightfall, but darkness will crimp the tempo of search parties even if they are equipped with night vision equipment.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 sent aloft around noon today can, in theory, stay airborne for several hours past sunset.

But much of its search pattern is expected to take place at low level, with observers looking out from the cockpit glasshouse and possibly, a lowered cargo ramp at the rear of the aircraft for signs of the missing MAS Boeing 777-200.

Having despatched one C-130, it is thought a second (or more) aircraft will be placed on high alert. The second aircraft gives HQ RSAF a standby asset as it takes the place of the first C-130 which is now deployed to look for MH370.

A CH-47SD Chinook, the RSAF's largest helicopter, would also be on standby for flight operations 24/365. The Chinook's 650 nautical mile range (1,204 km) means the helicopter can fly a fair distance into the South China Sea on missions of mercy.

In addition, a Super Puma/Cougar is on standby as you read this, though this bird has shorter legs than the Chinook.

RSAF Fokker 50s have also been despatched for SAR/SAL missions.

Since 2010, Team RSAF has conducted 86 SAR missions.

Should there be a need to conduct an underwater search at Malaysia's request, the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) submarine rescue vessel, Swift Rescue, could be a possible candidate for such a task. The special mini submarine carried aboard Swift Rescue could help search parties scour the seabed at close  range. The mini sub is capable of diving to a depth of 500m - which is more than enough for operations in the South China Sea (average depth 80m).

Underwater sensors embarked on the Navy's four Bedok-class Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) could also help with such a search. Should the need arise, the ability of the MCMVs to detect and identify underwater anomalies, whether on the seabed or tethered objects, can be applied to non-defence underwater expeditions too.

It is worth remembering that when France embarked on a massive search for Air France Airbus A330 Flight 447, which went missing over the South Atlantic, she deployed a nuclear submarine to help detect signals from the airliner's  flight data recorder (i.e. black box, which is usually painted bright orange).

We wish the multi-national search teams well in this last hour of daylight on 8 March 2014.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of MH370.

Earlier report posted at 15:06 hrs:
A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 Hercules from 122 Squadron took off from Singapore around noon today, tasked to search for and locate the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, which had 239 passengers and crew onboard.

The mercy mission is being coordinated between the RSAF, Singapore Rescue Coordination Centre and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

As its name implies, the SRCC brings together air and sea search and rescue assets that stage out of Singapore, an island republic that sits astride some of the world's busiest shipping lanes and at the heart of air lanes that criss cross the South China Sea region.

Among other things, the SRCC has the expertise to use data on ocean currents and wind direction to predict the spread of the debris field. Such data can help aerial search parties in their mission.

For example, the Air France Airbus A330 Flight 447 that went down over the Atlantic in June 2009  left a floating debris field that included an object as large as the plane's vertical stabiliser.

If an airliner ditches under pilot control, the forced landing can prove survivable for passengers. Examples include the crash landing of Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 Flight 961 and US Airways Airbus A320 Flight 1549.

The missing MAS, Flight MH370, was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared off Vietnam.

The C-130 is a medium range tactical transport that can perform a wide spectrum of roles such as airdropping troops and equipment, air-to-air refuelling, search and locate and medical evacuation missions.

RSAF C-130s can stay in the air for as long as 15 hours and have a maximum range of 4,800 nautical miles (8,890 km). This brings the area in which MH370 is thought to have gone down well within the C-130's search radius.

The RSAF's C-130 fleet is being progressively upgraded by Singapore Technologies Aerospace under Project H to modernise some of the flight deck consoles and enhance the transport aircraft's survivability against MANPADS.

Pilots and aircrew with 122 SQN have flown operational missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Arabian Gulf region.

This is an evolving story. More updates to come.


hmmwv said...

What is the reason we did not send a Fokker 50 MPA instead of a C-130?

It has a surveillance radar under the belly and optics under the nose. I'm pretty sure there is optical equipment in that glass door.

Unknown said...

Thumbs up ,SAF

abang jamboo said...

Thanks Singapore for your assistance in our darkest hours

GaGaK said...

Thanks singapore!