The “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 are returning home from a highly successful deployment to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility April 8, flying missions in support of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72.
Over the course of their six-month Western Pacific deployment, VP-8’s 12 combat air crews (CAC) flew more than 600 operational sorties, encompassing 3,500 flight hours while maintaining a 100 percent mission completion rate. The “Fighting Tigers” ushered in a new era for 7th Fleet and CTF-72, deploying with Fleet Release 45 software, which brought a number of enhancements to maritime domain awareness. The squadron also maintained a robust theater security and cooperation schedule, which saw them complete 15 detachments to nine different countries around the region. These detachments were a key component to continued U.S. engagement in the Pacific region, bolstering relationships with partners and allies, while promoting interoperability between the U.S. Navy and other armed forces and agencies.
There were many operational highlights throughout the deployment including locating a missing a submarine, capturing imagery of illicit ship-to-ship transfers of cargo on the high seas in contravention of a United Nations Security Council Resolution enacting sweeping sanctions on North Korea.
One of the most rewarding missions of deployment was the successful rescue of three Micronesian fishermen lost at sea for more than eight days. CAC-9 located the stranded fishermen some 60 miles away from the closest search vessel. The crew correctly surmised that they were low on food and water and, knowing they had been subjected to the elements for eight days, CAC-9 conducted the first successful operational deployment of the UNI-PAC II search and rescue kit, allowing the fishermen to board the covered life-raft and access food and water stored aboard. The crew remained on-station providing overwatch and vectored the closest patrol boat to pick up the survivors.