|Below is an article appearing in today's Australian.......Those
P-3Cs and their crews are going to be working in yet another theatre. Dose this sort of activity make replacement by the 737 MMA a higher probability?
"RAAF set to fight piracy from the air
Michelle Wiese Bockmann
AUSTRALIAN warplanes could soon be flying patrols to help secure the world's busiest shipping lane, Southeast Asia's pirate-infested Malacca Strait.
Navy chief Russ Shalders has offered to provide RAAF aircraft for joint patrols of the piracy hotspot amid concerns that al-Qa'ida-sponsored regional terror groups have infiltrated local piracy gangs.
"We would be very happy to help in terms of providing experience in air patrolling," said Vice-Admiral Admiral Shalders, who is in Malaysia for a two-week joint defence exercise.
But he said Australia needed a formal request from the Malaysian Government before any official offer could be made.
New Zealand made a similar offer of assistance during Exercise Bersama Lima, wargames that began last Thursday in which Malaysia, Singapore and Britain are also participating.
The foriegn-surveillance proposal comes after Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand last week began the first-ever joint piracy air patrols over the congested waterway, where violent and well-organised piracy gangs have operated for decades.
The offers were made in response to rising international concerns and pressure from Australia, the US and Japan about maritime security and terrorism threats along the 960km-long waterway.
About 50,000 ships carrying a quarter of the world's trade and half its oil pass through the dangerous Malacca Strait each year.
The area, which recorded 38 attacks on ships last year, was placed on a par with Iraq as a high-risk region for war and terrorism by the Lloyd's of London insurance market in July.
Jemaah Islamiah, the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have all been linked to piracy attacks in the area.
A spokesman for Defence Minister Robert Hill was unable to clarify if Australia had made or received any formal offer to join the air patrols.
But Senator Hill indicated last month that he was pushing for closer regional surveillance and intelligence-sharing in the Malacca Strait. In a major departure from attitudes a year ago, the three Asian nations with jurisdiction over the Malacca Strait indicated last week that they would consider any foreign offers to help secure the vital waterway from piracy and maritime terrorism.
Malaysian and Indonesian leaders last year flatly rejected a similar offer by the US to monitor and patrol the area.
Australia is supporting Malaysia's bid to join the UN's International Maritime Organisation, which is responsible for overseeing global merchant shipping.
Piracy survivors have reported that highly organised and violent criminal gangs with corporate structures have operated with impunity in the Malacca Strait, hijacking ships, stealing valuable cargoes, and killing crews or demanding ransoms.
The so-called "Eyes in the Sky" air patrols began last week, more than a year after the first co-ordinated piracy sea patrols started.
The initiative followed decades of political inertia that prevented effective monitoring of the longstanding problem of piracy.
There were 127 piracy attacks recorded around the world in the first six months of this year, a third of which occurred in Indonesian waters.
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