Search Lessons Shared with China and Australia

21 November 2014

Enhancing co-ordination and co-operation between Australia, China and New Zealand in responding to unforeseen disasters in the Asia-Pacific region has been the focus of an exercise held this week in China.

A 15-person New Zealand and Australian combined military and civilian delegation took part in Exercise Co-operation Spirit which was hosted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – Navy at their naval command college in Nanjing.

Around 50 participants exchanged lessons from the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the People’s Republic of China’s response to the 29 September 2013 ‘Typhoon Butterfly’, and search and rescue operations conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC).

PLA Navy Senior Captain (SNR CAPT) Lin Hua said the purpose of the exercise was to deepen understanding of the Chinese, New Zealand and Australian military and government capabilities in responding to humanitarian disasters involving maritime search and rescue (SAR).

“This exercise will lay a solid foundation for tri-country military aircraft and military ships involved in HADR in maritime Search and Rescue and will improve co-ordination and co-operation and build mutual confidence.”

Head of the 10-person Australian delegation, Captain (CAPT) Michael Harris, RAN detailed the air and surface search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that involved 19 aircraft and 16 ships from eight countries, including New Zealand.

“It was to be the largest air search in the history of aviation.

“The search for MH370 was made difficult by the lack of a known crash site. Consequently, the search area changed a number of times while information about the aircraft’s flight path became known.

“Search areas were defined by the best information available at that time.”

CAPT Harris said over 400 items were found during the search effort however none could be confirmed to have come from the missing aircraft.

The PLA-Navy provided an overview of their response to Typhoon Butterfly, regarded as the most destructive storm in 35 years when it devastated remote Chinese islands on 29 September, 2013. The typhoon led to extensive air and surface search for more than 400 missing fishermen.

During the search 332 fishermen were rescued with several found after a week adrift at sea, 14 fishermen were confirmed dead while a further 48 remain unaccounted for.

The NZDF presented lessons from maritime SAR conducted in their SAR Area of Operations; an area of 30 million square kilometres, one of the largest search regions in the world.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Simon Eichelbaum said the NZ SAR region covered seven nations and borders with six others, requiring extensive co-ordination and co-operation.


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This page was last reviewed on 1 December 2014.