SUBANG: Two Japanese P-3 Orion military aircraft took off from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base this morning and will join search and rescue operations in Australia this evening for missing flight MH370.
Hailing from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), the planes departed the base at about 10.10am and are expected to land in Perth eight hours from now.
"We will be going to Australia to try and find MH370...When we arrive in Australia, we will start to coordinate with the (Royal) Australian Air Force," commanding officer Hidetsugu Iwamasa, 41, told reporters before boarding the aircraft.
Thanking Malaysia for its support, he expressed his appreciation for the RMAF, adding that he hoped to work with the latter again in the future.
Hidetsugu is part of the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) team that was sent to Malaysia following MH370's disappearance.
The P-3C Orions are maritime patrol aircraft, and possess avionics capable of detecting submarines underwater.
The JDR team consists of 107 servicemen, including two C-130 Hercules from the Japan Air Self Defence Force and one Gulfstream V aircraft from the Japan Coast Guard.
Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Makio Miyagawa said the two P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft will continue their operations in the South Indian Ocean.
"The base will be shifted to Perth from Subang, but we will certainly continue our assistance vis-a-vis the Malaysian Government," he told reporters.
Dr Makio also cited a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, adding that Japan would help Malaysia and would offer its assistance over the matter.
"Our hearts are always with the Malaysian Government and the people (of Malaysia)," he said.
Subang RMAF deputy base commander Lt Col Hanafiah Ab Manaf commended the Japanese for their help, adding that they were ever ready to help search for MH370.
"They are a very good team, they're workaholics. They're ever willing to go (on missions) and they're very cooperative...Always on time," he said.
He added that the two C-130 Hercules aircraft were not going to Australia at the moment.
According to him, the Japanese first landed in Malaysia on March 12 at about 12.20am.
The search continues for MH370 which disappeared off the Malaysian East Coast at about 1.30am on March 8.
The Malaysian Airlines flight turned back across Peninsular Malaysia before disappearing over the Straits of Malacca.
Following the disappearance, a massive search-and-rescue operation was mounted, spanning initially the South China Sea and now two different corridors westwards overland and across the Indian Ocean.