In terms of unflashy military aircraft, the US Navy's new P-8 Poseidon might be the most low-key in service today. It's based off the backbone of the world's major passenger carriers, the Boeing 737, so it's never going to end up on a kid's bedroom wall, like an F-22 Raptor or star in a major motion like the F/A-18 Hornet in Independence Day. But for three mariners, none of this matters – the P-8 is the best damn plane on the planet.
The maritime patroller was a key part of a rescue operation that save three stranded mariners on a desolate island in the sprawling Pacific Ocean. Their 19-foot vessel was capsized by a large wave, forcing the men to abandon ship and swim two miles through the night to Fanadik Island, one part of the Pulap Atoll. The small ring of uninhabited islands lies about 2,600 miles southwest of Honolulu and belongs to the Federated States of Micronesia.
The men were stranded for three days before the P-8 flew over. They put together a large "HELP" sign, made from palm leaves, to catch the eye of the jet's crew, who snapped the photo shown above and relayed the information to the Coast Guard. Alongside coordinating the Poseidon crew, the Coast Guard used its Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue program to enlist the help of two bulk freighters, the Brilliant Jupiter and Ten Yu Maru, who conducted a 17-hour search of the skiff's last known area.
The three men were originally reported missing after they were overdue for their arrival at the island of Weno.