SANTA RITA, Guam - Patrol Squadron Nine (VP 9), which operates the P-3C Orion aircraft, assisted the U.S. Coast Guard during the largest annual multi-national maritime security surveillance operation in the Pacific Aug. 15-22.
Operation Island Chief is a Quadrilateral Defense Group (QUAD) initiative that includes Australia, France, New Zealand, and the U.S.
Island Chief aims to improve interoperability with Pacific island nations and increase maritime security awareness to enhance the abilities of all parties involved to enforce laws in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. VP 9 assisted the USCG in this mission by providing increased maritime domain awareness of fishing vessels operating in the region.
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) District 14 is the U.S. Pacific Command's executive agent to the QUAD.
“This mission is very important,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ed Arnold, safety officer and pilot of the P-3 used during the mission. “We work with other countries and show them how to protect their economic zones.”
The U.S. Navy is committed to providing assistance to the Coast Guard and other agencies to help mitigate threats to stability and prosperity. Illegal commercial fishing disrupts economic prosperity, which can destabilize many small countries that depend on this industry as an important part of their economy.
“We get our tasks of what area to patrol, and then we go out and establish communications with the ship,” said Lt. Luke Reed, assistant operations officer. “We can go a lot further and faster than their ships can, so we give them a bigger maritime picture than they can see using Automatic Identification System (AIS) alone.”
The specific operational areas of Island Chief are the EEZs of the Republic of Palau, Kirbati, Federal States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and the high seas adjacent to these areas.
VP 9, the Golden Eagles, are currently deployed to Kadena Air Base located in Okinawa, Japan.
The P-3C Orion used to conduct the missions is a four-engine turboprop, anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. Equipment used includes a camera that can zoom in and visually identify the vessels and hull numbers. In addition, VP 9 and the respective maritime law enforcement agencies use the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to track illegal fishing vessels. AIS is an automated tracking system used on ships and by Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and VTS stations. AIS information supplements marine radar, which continues to be the primary method of collision avoidance for water transport.