New Zealand Defence Force begins Antarctic-support season

New Zealand Defence Force has begun its annual support to Antarctica, with more than 200 personnel from all three military services being deployed over the summer season.

FILE PHOTO: An RNZAF C-130 Hercules on an ice runway in Antarctica. NZDF photo.

NZDF has been involved in Antarctica since 1955, supporting New Zealand’s contribution to international efforts to improve scientific knowledge and safeguard the pristine environment.

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said New Zealand had important interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

“By providing skilled people and advanced military equipment, we’re able to contribute to New Zealand’s efforts in Antarctica, and support scientific and environmental programmes that are essential to the protection of this unique part of the world,’’ Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

Major Andrew Thornton, Senior National Officer for Operation Antarctica, said 212 Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel would be deployed to Antarctica over the summer season.

Pilots and crew from the RNZAF’s No. 40 Squadron plan to fly a dozen flights in C-130 Hercules and Boeing B757s to the ice between October 2019 and March 2020, carrying cargo and passengers.

Twenty-five air transportation specialists will work at Harewood Terminal in Christchurch, supporting all aircraft flying to Antarctica, including flights as part of the United States Antarctica Programme (USAP).

NZDF personnel including a chef, plant operators, cargo handlers and communications operators will be part of a support team at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

Drivers, stevedores and riggers will be part of a ship load team of about 50 personnel handling thousands of tonnes of food and equipment.

A group of about 65, including logistics personnel, and fuel and movement operators, will be based at the United States’ McMurdo Station, supporting USAP supply operations.

An Army light engineering team will carry out construction and deconstruction tasks over the summer season.

An RNZAF Survival Training School will also be held on the ice to teach RNZAF aircrew how to stay safe on the ice in an emergency.

Major Thornton said NZDF personnel looked forward to deploying to Antarctica.

“They’re pleased to be contributing to important work in this remote region, whether that’s operators talking by radio to science teams in the field, cargo personnel loading and unloading supplies and equipment, or our all-important chef, who helps keep everyone well fed and happy.”

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Brian Hartigan

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