415 Squadron crew wins Arctic Maritime Patrol Challenge

News Article / August 23, 2017

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From 415 (Long Range Patrol Force Development) Squadron

A 415 (Long Range Patrol Force Development) Squadron crew from 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, deployed to Andoya, Norway, from June 19 to 25 to participate in a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) Symposium hosted by 333 Squadron, Royal Norwegian Air Force, as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations.

The symposium brought together crews from 21F Squadron, French Air Force; VP-16 United States Navy, 333 Squadron; and 415 Squadron to discuss issues relevant to the Maritime Patrol Aircraft community, with each nation providing an update on fleet capabilities and current operations.

The symposium’s overarching theme was search and rescue, and each nation also included in its presentation details of a SAR incident plus the lessons identified as a consequence. The 415 Squadron brief covered the Royal Western Yacht Club Trans-Atlantic Race SAR incident, and 14 Wing’s involvement following the receipt of multiple distress calls through June 9 and 10.

The symposium also involved a flying competition, aimed at challenging crews’ skill in the areas of search and rescue, and anti-submarine warfare. The best crew would be crowned Arctic MPA Champions and awarded a trophy. 

The crews were evaluated in five areas, including the ability to make the briefed take-off time and reach the area entry point via an en-route waypoint on time. They were tested on the total time taken from the entry point to locate an Expendable Mobile Acoustic Training Target given a Datum position, such that it transmitted between a pair of buoys 2,000 yards [1,829 metres] apart, before proceeding to the area exit point – within 30 minutes, with just 10 sonobuoys.

Crews had to locate a group of “survivors,” with an emphasis on the accuracy of the positional data passed for their location and number of survivors. Finally, the challenge was to come in as the crew with the shortest overall flight time.

The 415 Squadron crew were successfully airborne within 12 seconds of their allotted time: unfortunately, an equipment malfunction as their aircraft lined up for take-off prevented them from achieving the exact time. Once airborne, the crew hit the required area entry point time to the second, and an efficient descent into the area permitted immediate deployment of sonobuoys once in the datum.

Acoustic contact was gained on the very first sonobuoy deployed, and additional tracking sonobuoys were dropped. Once the crew was certain the target would transit through the buoy pattern, and because there was no requirement to conduct an attack, the crew members expedited their departure, climbing so sonobuoys could still be monitored in transit. They were the only crew to consider doing this.

The whole evolution took only 13 minutes. Once through the exit point, the crew saw the target transit through their buoy pattern, meeting the test’s objectives, before descending again to start the SAR scenario.

From the brief, survivors were assessed to have made it to the shoreline between Andoya and Nordmela. A visual and electro-optic search was commenced, and the 415 Squadron crew spotted the survivors on the first pass; only two of the four competing crews achieved this. The crew orbited to confirm the exact survivor location, their number and condition before departing for Andoya and landing after 58 minutes.

Once all crews had returned, a nail-biting wait began: the United States Navy P-8 also landed with a total time of 58 minutes, and the Norwegian P-3 in 57 minutes. The French Atlantique 2 landed after 1 hour 10 minutes due to a delay in finding the survivors. The 415 Squadron crew’s fears were unfounded, as subsequent results put them in top spot in three of the five areas and second fastest overall.

Consequently, 415 Squadron was the winner by a clear margin, and crowned the 2017 Arctic Maritime Patrol Aircraft Champions.

This event was a lead-in for 415 Squadron’s participation in Exercise Dynamic Mongoose in Keflavik, Iceland, which ran from June 25 to July 8, 2017.

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