The littoral combat ship Fort Worth has joined the destroyer Sampson in the search for wreckage and debris from downed AirAsia flight 8501 and has deployed its Tow Fish side scan sonar system to search the ocean bottom.

At the request of the Indonesian government, which is leading the search effort, Fort Worth arrived in the Java Sea search area Jan. 3. The Sampson arrived Dec. 29.

"Fort Worth and her crew send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this tragedy," said Cmdr. Kendall Bridgewater, the ship's commanding officer, in an interview with Armed Forces Network Pacific.

"We are working around the clock in close coordination with our Indonesian partners to support all the search efforts that are ongoing," he said "We are basically operating our small boats, launching our helicopters and conducting visual searches from the bridge as we transit the area.

The search has been hampered at times by bad weather, but divers with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 have launched their Tow Fish sonar system from an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat.

"That is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology that allows us to map the ocean floor, at least to be able to find wreckage and debris," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.

The Fort Worth, and its crew of approximately 100, will remain on station "as long as we can provide any useful assistance to our Indonesian partners," Bridgewater said.

"The liaison officer is working alongside the Indonesian national search and rescue agency, and they are basically passing us Indonesian directions for certain search areas for both the Forth Worth and the Sampson. But we are using our air and surface search systems to continue our efforts," he said.

Sampson's crew recovered several bodies Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. A total of 12 bodies were transferred via the ship's MH-60R helicopters to Indonesian authorities at Iskander Air Base in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia.

Fort Worth is on a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet and brings maneuverability, speed and a shallow draft, which allows the ship her to conduct expeditious visual and radar searches in a congested, shallow water environment, according to a Navy news release. Fort Worth is also outfitted with a MH-60R helicopter as well as two 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats.

Navy Diver 2nd Class Daniel Clarke, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, prepares to launch a Tow Fish side scan sonar system from littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth's (LCS 3) 11-m rigid hull inflatable boat. Fort Worth is currently on station in the Java Sea and supporting Indonesian-led efforts to locate missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist MC2 Antonio P. Turretto Ramos/Released)

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