CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post used the incorrect nickname for Patrol Squadron 4. The unit is known as the “Skinny Dragons” not the “Sneaky Dragons.” USNI News regrets the error.
Acting on a request from the searchers looking for the missing EgyptAir flight that crashed early Thursday local time, the Navy has sent a maritime surveillance aircraft to look for the missing aircraft, a U.S. defense official told USNI News.
A Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron 4 “Skinny Dragons” (VP-4) launched from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy on early Thursday morning to look for Flight MS 804 believed to have crashed off of the island of Crete, the official said.
The request for the P-3C support came from the U.S. defense attaché at the American embassy in Athens, Greece to support the joint search office based in Greece.
The aircraft’s primary role is to locate enemy ships and submarines but has also been used for searches for missing ships and aircraft in the past.
The Airbus A320, which left from Paris bound for Cairo with 66 passengers, lost contact with air traffic controllers over the Mediterranean at about 1:30 A.M. Cairo time on Thursday.
“EgyptAir said the plane had been flying at 37,000ft (11,300m) when it disappeared from radar shortly after entering Egyptian airspace,” according to the BBC.
Greek officials said they attempted to contact the aircraft before it entered Egyptian airspace with no success.
According to comments this morning from Egyptian civil aviation officials, it was more likely the crash was a result of an act of terrorism than a mechanical failure of the aircraft.
Other Navy assets in the Mediterranean include the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) and a Military Sealift Command ship but as of yet have not been tasked to aid in the search, the official said.