An RAAF P-8A Poseidon dropped life rafts to 20 stranded fisherman who were clinging to their capsizing vessel in rough seas 670 nautical miles west of Perth.
The intervention on Friday allowed the sailors to survive long enough that they could be picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and be subsequently transferred to HMAS Anzac.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the ADF personnel involved in the mission should “make all Australians proud”.
The incident is thought to have begun on Thursday evening when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issued an alert announcing 20 fisherman were aboard a vessel that was in trouble.
The next day, a P-8A Poseidon was dispatched to drop life rafts and worked closely with an AMSA Bombardier Challenger 604 based in Perth, which took the footage embedded below.
On Saturday morning, a Japanese fishing vessel arrived and transferred all 20 from the sinking boat to their own before HMAS Anzac arrived to collect them later that day. All are now receiving medical support, and one will be flown to a Perth hospital by Anzac’s MH-60R helicopter.
Anzac will now detour to return the remaining fisherman to their homeport in Bali next week. It means a delay for the crew who were hours away from returning back to Australia after a long posting.
“I want to thank the crew of HMAS Anzac as well as the aircrew who dropped essential items, which helped the Indonesian crew survive until their rescue,” said Minister Dutton.
“I also want to acknowledge the patience and goodwill of the families of Anzac’s crew, who are now waiting longer to see their loved ones following a long deployment. We will have your sailors back with you as soon as possible.
“Their efforts in bad weather and high sea state should make all Australians proud. They helped save 20 lives.”
The Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon is RAAF’s multi-mission maritime patrol, initially based on Boeing’s classic workhorse, B737NG.
The Poseidon excels at anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search and rescue. It has a maximum height of up to 41,000 feet and can fly at speeds up to 490 knots.
RAAF’s first Poseidon was delivered on 16 November 2016, and the Air Force is working towards a final fleet of 15.
The aircraft was introduced to partially replace RAAF’s fleet of AP-3C Orions, together with the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system.
The P-8A is equipped with advanced sensors and mission systems, including a multi-role radar, high-definition cameras and an acoustic system that is said to boast four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C’s, as well as an extensive communications suite.
An internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes allows the P-8A to conduct low-level anti-submarine warfare missions at a distance of greater than 2,000 kilometres from base. The P-8A will be compatible for air-to-air refuelling with the KC-30A MRTT.