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Australian C-27J Spartans taking up HADR role

C27-J Spartan A34-007 from No 35 Squadron flies of the coast of Newcastle. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

The Australian defense ministry said it is enhancing support for humanitarian disaster relief, crisis response and regional engagements by redefining the role of the C-27J Spartan aircraft.

The ministry said the Spartan’s new role would enhance Australia’s humanitarian and emergency response to natural disasters in the country and its near region, regional engagement across the Indo-Pacific including through Pacific Step-Up, and the Australian defense forces’ military logistics and air mobility capability.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC, said the Spartan’s capabilities were aligned with defense’s strategic objectives to shape Australia’s strategic environment.

“The Spartan demonstrated its specific capabilities during the 2019/20 Australian bushfire crisis by safely evacuating 2,400 fire-affected community members and resupplying remote communities that were inaccessible by larger aircraft, which included moving 300,000 kilograms of cargo,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

“The Spartan conducted these missions at a range that exceeded the ability of Defence helicopters because of its flexibility and the inherent operational characteristics of a light tactical fixed wing aircraft.”

Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, AM, CSC, highlighted the Spartan’s contribution to ADF contingency response, and its value in providing assistance to regional neighbors.

“The use of the Spartan on exercises such as Arnhem Thunder and Talisman Sabre to deliver vital stores to expeditionary airbases, showcases its ability to reach remote and austere airbases.

“And it has also recently transported medical supplies and equipment to Port Moresby to assist PNG in the fight against COVID-19; as well as contributed to Australia’s support to regional maritime security and fisheries protection on the high seas through deployments on Operations Resolute and Solania,” Air Vice-Marshal Roberts said.

Australia’s fleet of 10 Spartans has been operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, since the first Spartan arrived in Australia in 2015. Australia bought the Spartans to enhance its tactical fixed wing airlift capability, which it had been lacking since the retirement of the Caribou fleet in 2009.

In addition to HADR missions, the aircraft can carry out airdrop cargo and paratroops in-flight, airlift a variety of cargo loads, and conduct aeromedical evacuation of sick or wounded personnel.