Australia/RAAF Base Pearce

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RAAF Base Pearce and the search for MH370

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on Saturday, 8 March 2014.

On Monday, 17 March 2014, the Australian Government assumed responsibility for search operations in Australia’s search and rescue region. The Department of Defence (Australia) supported the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as the lead search and rescue agency, in what became known as Operation Southern Indian Ocean.

On Tuesday, 18 March 2014 a visual and radar search commenced in an area more than 2,000 kilometres south-west of Perth, Western Australia.

Military and civilian aircraft involved in the search operated from RAAF Base Pearce and Perth International Airport until Monday, 28 April 2014.

RAAF Base Pearce Location

RAAF Base Pearce is the main Air Force base in Western Australia and is located in Bullsbrook, 35 kilometres north of Perth.[1]

Although Pearce is the base closest to the search area in the southern Indian Ocean, simply getting to and from the search region took about eight hours of flying time, leaving only a few hours for each aircraft to search the areas allocated by AMSA.[2]

Search from RAAF Base Pearce

Aircraft involved in the search for MH370 operated from RAAF Base Pearce, and Perth International Airport, from Tuesday, 18 March 2014 to Monday, 28 April 2014. The number of aircraft involved increased to more than 21 during that period.

By 25 March 2014, aircraft operating out of Pearce included four Air Force AP-3C Orions, one Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion and two Japanese Self Defense Force P-3 Orions, and a C-130H Hercules and P-3C Orion from the Republic of Korea were expected. A United States Navy P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and two Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force supported the search from Perth airport.[2]

Three hundred and forty-five air sorties were conducted during 42 days of searching.

The Multinational Team

The search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was multinational, involving more than 21 military aircraft and civilian jets from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

On 29 April 2014, the Australian Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF), Air Marshal Mark Binskin, AC, and foreign Defence Attaches visited RAAF Base Pearce. The intent of the visit was to thank the multinational team for their efforts in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Following group photographs in front of the aircraft flown by the participating Nations in the search for MH370, both the VCDF and Commander Air Task Group, Group Captain Craig Heap, addressed all personnel at the RAAF Base Pearce Combined Mess. They both reiterated that the search for MH370 has now transitioned from a visual and acoustic search to an underwater search. VCDF also emphasised that all Nations involved in the search have been working cohesively as a single team, in an attempt to bring closure for the families of those aboard MH370.[3]

Personnel involved the search for MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.

Personnel involved the search for MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.[3]
Source: Royal Australian Air Force, © Commonwealth of Australia 2015

Notes and References
  1. The website for RAAF Base Pearce is
  2. 2.0 2.1 Minister for Defence - Multi-national search team praised at RAAF Base Pearce, Department of Defence, 25 March 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Department of Defence Image (Creative Commons Licence)
    Note: This image is one of several in a gallery at