Two Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartan aircraft returned home to Australia recently following a successful mission supporting the Solomon Islands Government’s response to a COVID-19 outbreak.
CAPTION: Solomon Islands children welcome an Air Force C-27J Spartan aircraft carrying food and critical aid supplies to Auki airport, Solomon Islands. Photo by Corporal Jarrad McAneney.
The Spartan aircraft and 60 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel conducted 54 flights between February 14–21, delivering more than 50 tonnes of food and emergency medical supplies to Auki, Kirakira, Naratupe, Gizo, Balalae, Lata and Munda.
The delivery of these vital supplies helped enable the Solomon Islands Government to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Solomon Islands Government was further support by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) personnel and a specialist Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT).
Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said this ongoing support, as part of Operation Lilia, was testament to the enduring partnership between Australia and Solomon Islands.
“Australia and Solomon Islands have a longstanding and deeply entrenched relationship based on mutual respect,” Lieutenant General Bilton said.
“Defence personnel have been working side-by-side with our Pacific family in a collaborative effort to ensure the pressing needs of the Solomon Islands Government and people were met.”
The COVID-19 response aspect of the Operation Lilia mission continues on from the deployment of DFAT officials, Australian Federal Police and ADF personnel in November 2021 to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to stabilise unrest in Honiara.
Operation Lilia Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel Steve Frankel said the evolution of support demonstrated the versatility of the ADF.
“Since a January COVID-19 outbreak, Australia has broadened its support to incorporate humanitarian assistance for a COVID-19 response, coordinating with other Australian Government agencies to provide emergency medical support,” Lieutenant Colonel Frankel said.
“The C-27J Spartan deployment has delivered emergency food and medical supplies to the remote island provinces.
“The efforts of the deployed ADF personnel have been terrific and resulted in the rapid deployment of stores to provinces within 48 hours of the supplies arriving in Solomon Islands.”
The ADF, supporting the AFP and DFAT, continues to work alongside Solomon Island authorities, and contributing nations from the Pacific family, to maintain the wellbeing of the population.