RAAF’s No. 35 Squadron achieved a significant milestone this month when it deployed a C-27J Spartan battlefield air lifter to participate in a major international exercise for the first time since the aircraft was brought into service in 2015.
CAPTION: A RAAF C-27J Spartan takes off from Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne during Exercise Southern Katipo 2017. Photo by Sergeant Ricky Fuller.
The Spartan deployed to New Zealand to contribute air mobility capability to Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 – the New Zealand Defence Force’s largest combined and joint exercise.
Exercise scenarios featured a variety of air, land and sea activities including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the evacuation of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid, maritime patrols, peacekeeping operations and conventional warfighting.
Thirteen countries from around the world participated in Southern Katipo, with 17 fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters, five ships (including HMAS Choules) and more than three-thousand ground forces, as well as civilian agencies including Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
No. 35 Squadron C-27J Detachment Commander, Flight Lieutenant Jason Meyers said deploying to New Zealand for the exercise demonstrated the progress made by the squadron over the past two years to get the new aircraft fully operational.
“Our participation in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 represents a massive leap forward for 35 Squadron, demonstrating our ability to operate the C-27J Spartan in support of military operations, not just in Australia but also abroad,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
Flight Lieutenant Meyers, who is also the aircraft captain of the deployed Spartan, said the C-27J was contributing a unique capability to the exercise.
“We are one of the smallest fixed-wing aircraft operating in the fleet for this exercise, which also has C-17s and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and United States Air Force C-130s,” he said.
“The Spartan can operate more freely in environments where the C-17 is impacted by restrictions, making us a valuable capability for getting troops and cargo where they need to go, even in challenging situations.”
Flight Lieutenant Meyers said Southern Katipo was providing his crew with some great training opportunities, which would be difficult to replicate in Australia.
“I’m operating with two co-pilots and three loadmasters who are building their experience in this aircraft type,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
“One of my co-pilots is here straight out of his initial qualification for the C-27J, so for him this is an excellent opportunity to enhance his experience and improve his knowledge and operating abilities on this aircraft.
“Additionally, the weather here in New Zealand is temperamental and challenging – with frequent low cloud, rain and constant windy conditions around most of the airfields and drop zones we are operating into.
“If you combine that with the mountainous terrain in the South Island, it provides my co-pilots, the loadmasters and I with a unique and valuable training experience that we can’t really get back home.”
Exercise Southern Katipo is a biennial, combined, joint field-training exercise focused on developing, exercising and evaluating the New Zealand Defence Force’s ability to project forces anywhere in the South West Pacific and either operate independently or with its coalition partners.
The exercise is designed to simulate a real operation as much as possible and create training challenges across the spectrum of military operations, including humanitarian aid and maritime patrols, through to peacekeeping and conventional warfighting.