In this file photo, a P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 begins to taxi to the runway at Kadena Air Base in Japan, Oct. 27. (U.S. Navy/PO2 Josuhua E. Walters)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - At the request of the New Zealand Ministry of Defence the United States Navy is providing maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) to assist in life-saving efforts after the Nov. 13 earthquakes on the South Island of New Zealand.

A P-3C Orion assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 was participating in Exercise Mahi Tangaroa as part of the New Zealand International Naval Review when the earthquake occurred and has been tasked with assessing the area surrounding Kaikoura, NZ. The P-3C is currently operating from Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland located in Whenuapai, NZ.

"From the moment we got the word, our aircrew and maintenance professionals have thrown themselves into this relief effort with a commitment that is just so much a part of what our maritime patrol and reconnaissance force stands for," said Cmdr. Ryan C. Cech, commanding officer of VP-47. "I am proud we can assist our New Zealand partners in their time of need."

VP-47 is a U.S. Navy P-3C squadron based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. The P-3C Orion is a four engine, turboprop maritime patrol aircraft, with the endurance and ability to conduct wide-area maritime search operations and which give the aircraft an advantage for SAR missions.

The U.S. Navy is fully supporting the recovery efforts. In addition to the MPRA assets, USS Sampson (DDG 102) embarked with two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters is currently en route to participate in the New Zealand International Naval Review and is standing by to assist if needed.

The U.S. Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy regularly operate and train together in engagements such as the U.S.-led biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise and the annual Pacific Partnership disaster response preparedness mission. Our militaries also participate in the New Zealand-led the biennial Southern Katipo exercise and the annual Tropic Twilight humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) exercise.