Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) maritime patrol aircraft Orion P-3K2 “Kingswood”, from No. 5 Squadron RNZAF, recently clocked up its 100th sortie in support of Combined Maritime Forces’ regional maritime security operations. In an impressive commitment to CMF’s team, and far from their home base back in New Zealand, the Kingswood’s crew have flown over thousands of miles of ocean in CMF’s area of operations, gathering vital intelligence and undertaking hugely valuable surveillance and reconnaissance operations (ISR). This is painstaking and methodical airborne work, often involving lengthy flight plans in the hot and humid skies of the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and surrounding waters. The operating environment when working for CMF is certainly very different from the more typical types of sorties the Kingswood normally undertakes from RNZAF bases in New Zealand. The Orion P-3K2 and its entire 55-man New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) air and groundcrew team, under the command of Wing Commander Daniel Hunt, departed RNZAF Base Auckland to join CMF operations back in February this year.
Back home, the P-3K2 provides airborne surveillance and reconnaissance of New Zealand’s areas of security and economic interest, exclusive economic zone, the South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean including Antarctica in support of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Flying over the Arabian Gulf and North Eastern Indian Ocean presents many different challenges to the crew, normally comprised of two Pilots, two Flight Engineers, three Air Warfare Officers (Tactical Coordinator, Information Manager, Systems Employment Manager), four Air Warfare Specialists and one Air Ordnanceman. In particular, maintenance regimes for the aircraft have to take account of the extreme summer temperatures.
The RNZAF P-3K2 Kingswood is one of a number of Maritime Patrol & Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) that are very regularly flown by CMF and its partner organisation EU NAVFOR in support of CMF’s maritime security operations across a vast expanse of sea. Stretching from the Red Sea, through the Bab el-Mandeb Straits, around the Gulf of Aden, Coast of Somalia, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Northern Indian Ocean and through the Straits of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf, the various MPRA provide vital ISR for this huge area of ocean. Using the ISR provided by the various MPRA separately commanded by its counter-piracy partner, EU NAVFOR, CMF is able to build up a highly comprehensive understanding of these waters.