The Royal New Zealand Air Force has successfully rescued two Kiribati fishermen who were reported missing last week, just days after a first successful mission in the same region.

The P-3K2 Orion aircraft's crew today spotted the two men waving from their 4.5m skiff 30 minutes into the planned search of more than 60,000 square kilometres of open sea.

The skiff was found adrift about 480km south-east of Nauru.

Air Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the 5 Squadron are crew reported the men appeared to be in good health and dropped them a survival pack of food, water and a radio.


The Orion contacted the closest fishing vessel, MV Nakoraoi, with a request to pick up the two men, who had been missing since May 13.

Assistance was requested through the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre yesterday and the Orion left Whenuapai air base about 7am and arrived at the search area about 1pm today.

"The quick and successful search for the fishermen is great news for their families. We are pleased that we are able to help our Pacific neighbours on these lifesaving missions," Mr Webb said.

Last Saturday an RNZAF Orion found three Kiribati fishermen missing for a week adrift near Tarawa, the Pacific Islands nation's capital and main atoll.

The NZDF has deployed the Orion to conduct five search and rescue operations in the Pacific since January, including four to Kiribati.