KOROR, Palau –
The Honorable John Hennessey-Niland, U.S. Ambassador to Palau, visited the crew of the “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8’s Palau detachment while in the Republic of Palau, July 10.
During Hennessey-Niland’s tour of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft’s flight station, mission crew work stations, he spoke with the Sailors about the importance of having the P-8A platform operating in Oceania.
“What this particular aircraft does fits perfectly with the needs of a partner like Palau,” said Hennessey-Niland. “With a large exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Palau has had issues with incursions in terms of research vessels and illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.”
While operating out of Palau, VP-8’s aircrew conducted missions to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) on vessels of interest and illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing within Palau’s exclusive economic zone.
“The first thing is being present,” said Hennessey-Niland. “We have to back up our commitment with capability. Having one of our advanced platforms like the P-8 operating out of Palau is one of the best examples of us showing up and meeting our responsibilities for the defense and security of Palau.”
Oceania is a critical region to both countries who are mutually invested and committed to protecting and preserving the surrounding water for the benefit of the Palauan people.
“The P-8A's extended range and advanced ISR suite makes it a highly capable platform for patrolling the large Palauan EEZ,” said Lt. Benjamin Montgomery, VP-8’s detachment’s officer in charge. “Palau was very supportive in allowing us to bring our aircraft into the country and we were more than happy to assist in looking for vessels of interest.”
The Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau currently have Compacts of Free Association (COFA) with the United States, which allows the U.S. military to operate in their borders and veto foreign militaries doing the same.
“We’ve had a large number of exercises recently in Palau,” said Hennessey-Niland. “We just concluded Valiant Shield, which was one of the largest joint exercises ever here in the second island chain. We were able to demonstrate the Navy’s air capability integrated with the Marine Corps running the air field.”
Maritime domain awareness is a vital matter of security with major economic and military implications for countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Having a platform like the P-8 assisting with the maritime domain awareness is one of the best examples of a partnership I can think of between the United States and Palau,” said Hennessey-Niland. “Getting the U.S. Navy to Palau is critical to keeping the peace and demonstrating our resolve and proving that we can sail and fly anywhere that’s legally allowed.”
The “Fighting Tigers” of VP-8 are based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville and are currently operating from Naval Air Facility Misawa in Misawa, Japan. The squadron conducts maritime patrol and reconnaissance as well as theater outreach operations as part of a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.