HMAS Adelaide’s embarked MRH-90 Taipan helicopters played a vital role in delivering much-needed supplies to Fijian communities that had been cut off by the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasa.

The crews flew more than 166 hours, delivering 71,475kg of aid through 62 vertical replenishments, as well as troops, to communities across Vanua Levu and outlying islands during Operation Fiji Assist 20-21.

A pilot from Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment, Captain Matthew Dwyer, said supplying essential equipment and stores for the rebuilding of a school was a particular focus.

“We were providing for people by speeding up the delivery of aid relief and building supplies,” Captain Dwyer said.

“With the MRH-90s, we could reach more areas more quickly, particularly those that were hard to reach by other means.”

Adelaide’s air traffic control officer, Air Force Squadron Leader Jennifer Slater, managed the Adelaide's airspace.

“At sea, Air Force air traffic controllers provide a maritime control service for the ADF’s two Canberra-class amphibious assault ships,” Squadron Leader Slater said.

“During Operation Fiji Assist, Air Force air traffic controllers liaised with Fiji air traffic control to ensure the ADF aircrew were provided up-to-date information on Fijian airspace procedures.

“We also provided traffic de-confliction between the multiple ADF helicopter operations delivering supplies and sequencing returning helicopters to Adelaide.”

Squadron Leader Slater said Adelaide’s aviation department was a prime example of triservice operability. 

“In this environment, we had an Air Force officer working on a Navy ship and controlling Navy and Army helicopters in the delivery of international aid,” Squadron Leader Slater said.

“The main highlight was seeing the effect that Adelaide had on the local community by being there in their time of need after the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Yasa.”

An MRH-90 Taipan helicopter delivers tools to the Fijian village of Navakasiga so buildings damaged by Tropical Cyclone Yasa could be repaired. Photo: Corporal Dustin Anderson