TOKYO — The Navy destroyer USS Sampson has joined the search and recovery effort for AirAsia Flight 8501 at the request of the Indonesian government, and the USS Fort Worth is preparing to deploy in case it’s needed, according to Navy officials.
The Sampson arrived in the area Tuesday. The Fort Worth, a littoral combat ship, should be ready to join the effort by Thursday, officials said. Both ships are equipped with search and rescue helicopters.
“The U.S. Navy is working closely with the government of Indonesia to identify additional surface or airborne capabilities that best assist their search efforts,” the 7th Fleet said in a press release Monday.
The Sampson is based in San Diego and was in the midst of an independent deployment to the Western Pacific when it was tasked to aid in the search effort. The Fort Worth, also based in San Diego, arrived in Singapore on Monday as part of a 16-month rotational deployment.
Lt. Lauren Cole, a 7th Fleet spokesperson, said officials from Indonesia and Malaysia are leading the search for the jet carrying 162 passengers that departed Surabaya, Indonesia, for Singapore on Sunday. No Americans were aboard, according to the State Department.
Indonesia search-and-rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said that at least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters were involved in the effort.
Debris from the AirAsia plane and some bodies have been spotted off the Indonesian coast six miles from the aircraft’s last known location over the Java Sea, according to news reports. Search teams also spotted what they said might be a larger submerged piece of the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200.
Navy officials at the Pentagon did not know if the Sampson or Fort Worth will be tasked to help recover bodies.
As of Tuesday morning Washington time, officials were still assessing whether the Fort Worth will be needed.
“It’s a very fluid situation and evolving situation, especially with today’s developments with the search and recovery effort. So whether it actually leaves and actually supports in the coming hours or days, that remains to be seen,” a Navy official told Stars and Stripes on condition of anonymity to more freely discuss deployment planning. “It might get to a point by that time … that additional ships or resources from the United States are not needed.”
The disappearance of the AirAsia jet comes on top of the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew. The Navy dispatched two P-8A Poseidon aircraft, a P3 Orion and an underwater drone to assist in the search for MH370, which has not been found.