The U.S. military plans to deploy a mix of fixed-wing and rotary-wing surveillance aircraft to aid the search for victims of Hurricane Harvey, a National Guard official said Aug. 29.
The fixed-wing Fairchild RC-26 will conduct such missions over Houston, as will rotorcraft equipped with sensors to perform information awareness and assessment, said Air Force Maj. Gen. James Witham, the National Guard Bureau’s director of domestic operations.
“I anticipate, especially as the weather clears over the next 24 hours, a great deal of those assets will be used in the fight,” Witham said at a Pentagon press briefing. “We are leaning as far forward as we possibly can to ensure that military assets are postured to support the needs of Texas and potentially Louisiana.”
This is not the first time the RC-26 will be pressed into service after a major natural disaster. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Air National Guard flew the RC-26 over New Orleans and surrounding areas to take photographs of the damage.
Also at the press briefing, Witham said the Department of Defense is looking at the possibility of positioning Navy ships near Houston to support relief activities.
In addition, Witham urged private drone operators to stay clear of Houston’s airspace, which is crowded with manned aircraft aiding rescue and recovery efforts. “The potential for a drone impact is a big deal,” he told reporters.
Separately, the U.S. Coast Guard said that 21 of its helicopters – seven Lockheed Martin [LMT] Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawks and 14 Airbus MH-65 Dolphins – are conducting rescue operations in Houston. National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters are also participating.