| Khal Baharulalam |
AS PART of ongoing effort in enhancing military co-operations with the Sultanate, the US Navy through the Embassy of the US to Brunei Darussalam, recently took members of the media aboard the P-3C Orion – a privilege given to them on the sidelines of Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training (CARAT) Brunei 2014 programme.
Known as the anti-submarine aircraft, the P-3C Orion lives up to the ‘eagle in the eye’ status as it glides at comparatively lower altitudes with the maximum being 34,000ft, and is manned by an 11-member crew attached to the US Navy’s Patrol Squaron Fighting Marlins’ – the VP 40 Patrol Squadron.
The maritime surveillance aircraft P-3C Orion adopted the motto, ‘Laging Handa’, which translates to ‘Always Ready’, with the VP-40 Squadron fully prepared with their respective roles to keep a watch on their Navy ships in the ocean.
Twenty-seven-year-old Mission Commander Lt Kyle Hooker led the flight out of the Rimba Air Base with his co-pilot, flight crew and two eager journalists.
During the course of the four-hour flight, two Navy ships were out in the open ocean – the USS Rodney M Davis (FFG 60) and Royal Brunei Navy’s KDB Darulaman (P-08). There were respective teams aboard the ships’ landing decks, and choppers readied in between the ship formations and our aircraft.
The flight circled around the limited airspace on standby for the exercise to take place. Visible from the cockpit were the two Navy ships getting closer in sight as the P-3C Orion started descending. Lt Hooker took charge of tactical operations, having made the call to descend to a daring 300ft altitude, with the ocean waters seeming just inches away.
The adrenaline rush amplified as the Mission Commander made the call to pull a maneouvring stunt just a couple of hundred feet above the two Navy ships.
Straight after the exercise, the Commander left the plane to his co-pilot, and moved to the flight deck to socialise with everyone whilst his crew continued with their roles.
What was more intriguing about being on the flight was the exchange of stimulating conversations, ranging from stories in the Navy and their experiences since they arrived in Brunei.