A RAAF C-130J Hercules transport has joined the world’s longest-running humanitarian airdrop operation, led by the United States Air Force in the west Pacific.
Operation Christmas Drop has been held annually since 1952, and this year will run from 7-10 December at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. For the first time, it will be a trilateral effort involving RAAF personnel working alongside their colleagues from the United States Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
Hercules transports from participating nations will airdrop payloads to shallow waters off the coast of the islands, where they can be easily retrieved by these communities. Operation Christmas Drop will this year deliver to island communities spread over an area of six million square kilometres in the Pacific.
The airdrop will include non-perishable food items, educational materials and toys.
Leading the RAAF contingent in this exercise is SQNLDR Christopher Bassingthwaighte, a C-130J pilot with No. 37 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond.
“There are a number of benefits to Australian participation in Operation Christmas Drop, key amongst these being the aid we’re delivering to civilian communities,” Squadron Leader Bassingthwaighte said.
“This is an opportunity to also work collaboratively with the Americans and Japanese to develop a greater understanding of each other’s techniques and procedures.”
Australia has operated different models of the Hercules since December 1958, which have been employed on humanitarian operations ranging from the 1974 Cyclone Tracy relief effort in Darwin, to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Sumatra.
More recently, Australian C-130J Hercules have been used to deliver supplies to Iraqi civilians, as well as provide assistance to Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam.
“Australian Hercules crews have a long-held history of helping communities in need,” Squadron Leader Bassingthwaighte said.
“Joining the United States Air Force in the world’s longest-running humanitarian airdrop mission is a natural fit for us.”
Media note: File imagery of a RAAF Hercules conducting airdrop is available from http://images.defence.gov.au/20151119raaf8178114_0271.jpg.
Imagery from the airdrop is available at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20153429
Eamon Hamilton – Air Mobility Group 0429 868 794