The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) joined the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) in the search for downed AirAsia Flight 8501 over the weekend, according to a U.S. Navy 7th fleet news release.
Fort Worth joined Sampson in the Java Sea, assisting in the Indonesian-led international search and recovery effort for the aircraft. Sampson’s commander, Cmdr. Steven M. Foley, discussed search efforts on ABC’s This Week weekend news program.
“We’ve been searching using lookouts, using optical search equipment and scanning the horizon and using our helicopters in tandem to search a wide area,” Foley told host Martha Raddatz today.
“The weather has been a little rough with scattered thunderstorms,” the commander said. “The seas have been about two to four feet, increasing to about four to six feet when the rain swells come in. And we’ve been operating in three specified areas that the Indonesian authorities have assigned to us.
“And you have to remember,” Foley added, “this is their search effort and we’re here to assist.”
While vessels search for the “pinger” of the aircraft’s black box with sonar and other detection devices, helicopters and RHIBs are searching for debris. The Indonesian government has asked for U.S. help in in the search for the Airbus A320-216 aircraft, which disappeared Dec. 28 in foul weather.
The Sampson arrived in the area Dec. 30, according to the release, and discovered aircraft debris that same day. Twelve sets of remains were found over the next two days. The use of Fort Worth in such efforts constitutes one of the arguments for the acquisition of large numbers of the LCS, a lower-cost, lower-capability ship that would free up more high-value assets such as Sampson for other more important missions. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced late in 2014, however, that the LCS is to be superseded by a more capable Small Surface Combatant (SSC), employing the same hulls but with enhanced sensors, firepower, and survivability.