A Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft will search for a Chilean Air Force C-130 that went missing Monday while on the way to the Antarctic, U.S. Southern Command announced Wednesday.

The Poseidon joins roughly a dozen planes and ships already hunting for the missing Hercules. It disappeared while flying through Drake’s Passage, the sea between Antarctica and South America’s southern tip, the Associated Press has reported.

Contact was lost with the Chilean plane — carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers — at 6:13 p.m. local time, leading authorities in Santiago to suspect it was about halfway to its Antarctic base, but no emergency signals arrived from the aircraft to pinpoint the exact location.

The Navy Poseidon reached the southern Chile city of Punta Arenas Wednesday and is expected start its search on Thursday, according to SOUTHCOM.

The U.S. aircraft had been conducting “counter-illicit trafficking” operations in El Salvador before being diverted south, officials said.

Its reconnaissance capabilities will allow it to loiter for up to four hours over search areas.

SOUTHCOM also provided satellite imagery of the search area to assist the Chilean search efforts.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Chile and with the families of the missing as we join other regional partners supporting Chile’s ongoing search,” SOUTHCOM Adm. Craig Faller said in the announcement.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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