High in the skies above the Gulf of Oman and the North Arabian Sea, a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft is providing support to Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-terrorism and maritime security operations, searching out suspicious vessels involved in illicit activities that fund terrorism.
Using state of the art cameras and radar, the Orion captures vital imagery of suspect activities at sea and transmits this information ashore for thorough analysis. Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), which is responsible for counter-terrorism and maritime security in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, uses the data to identify, track and, when necessary, board suspect vessels in order to seize illicit material such as narcotics, and in doing so, disrupt the funding of international terrorist organisations.
For the Commander of CTF-150, Commodore Brian Santarpia from the Royal Canadian Navy, the information provided by a maritime patrol aircraft such as the Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion is invaluable:
“The Kiwi aircraft is a true force multiplier. The flexibility, professionalism and quality of the information provided by the New Zealand crew allow us to have eyes in the sky, helping us to identify suspicious vessels and to dispatch our naval assets to the right place at the right time. This contribution from New Zealand is making a difference and is appreciated by CMF partners.”
CTF-150 began 2015 by intensifying its maritime security and counter-terrorism operations throughout its area of operations, which includes some of the world’s busiest commercial sealanes. Canada is currently in command of the task force with a combined Canadian and Australian staff, supporting national operations Artemis and Manitou respectively.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Tim Gall, said:
“The support of our P-3K2 Orion follows a deployment of one of our frigates last year, and we are pleased to be able to join with the CMF to continue to enhance maritime security in the region.”
“New Zealand is a key maritime surveillance partner in the region, working with other nations. Contributing ships and aircraft to the CMF international effort is a good opportunity for New Zealand to assist with a large-scale operation further from home.”
In addition to the Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, warships from Australia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as regional powers in the Middle East, are contributing to this operation, helping promote a lawful and stable maritime environment and deterring terrorists from using the sea to move illicit materials which funds terrorism.