The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has helped deliver seasonal cheer to remote Pacific communities through its participation in Operation Christmas Drop 18.
The RAAF deployed a C-130J Hercules and crew to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to work alongside American and Japanese counterparts from 5 to 18 December 2018.
Together, they delivered 154 loads by parachute to communities in the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. The RAAF’s own C-130J Hercules crew flew the longest missions to deliver 16 loads to seven island communities.
Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Bourke, RAAF Detachment Commander for Operation Christmas Drop 18, said it provided valuable experience for the participating crews.
“Some missions are a round-trip of 4,000km or more, the equivalent of flying from Sydney to Townsville and back, to deliver at a drop zone on a thin beach or atoll lagoon,” Flight Lieutenant Bourke said.
“For this we took advantage of external tanks recently fitted to our Hercules, which provided extended range and greater flexibility when delivering to these remote islands.
“This operation provides personnel with valuable experience and helps ensure our preparedness for humanitarian support in future.”
Each load delivered during Operation Christmas Drop can weigh up to 200kg. Crews conduct careful planning and precision timing to ensure the loads are safely delivered by parachute from the ramp of a Hercules.
The loads contain a range of items purchased or donated by participants, including construction materials, fishing nets, rice, soccer balls and school supplies.
“After each drop, we get a fantastic response on the radio from the communities who really appreciate our efforts,” Flight Lieutenant Bourke said.