The Air Force C-27J Spartan maintenance team for Operation Solania has returned from the high-tempo deployment, where they worked in support of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) largest annual maritime surveillance operation.

After arriving in the Solomon Islands, the RAAF contingent flew maritime surveillance sorties in support of the FFA’s Operation Kuru Kuru, departing from Pohnpei and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as the Republic of Palau, east of the Philippines.

The aircraft technicians and avionics technicians generated serviceable aircraft for the sorties, as well as embarking in the Spartan aircraft to assist the crew observing vessels at sea.

C-27J Spartan Loadmasters Sergeant Daniel Saunders, right, and Corporal Leigh Keioskie search for vessels off the coast of Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, during Operation Solania. Photo: Gunner Sagi Biderman

Avionics technician Corporal Mitchell Cocks said he enjoyed being part of the Australian Defence Force mission.

“I have enjoyed the missions I have been a part of so far, the change in roles is definitely rewarding when you spot a boat on the horizon,” Corporal Cocks said.

“Joining the crew for maritime flights was a huge change in responsibilities compared to my regular role as a maintainer.

“It’s also been great to visit new places in the Pacific – I love travelling, so for me it was a great opportunity to experience other cultures and adventure in remote localities.

“There is rich history in the region, particularly from the Second World War.”

The No. 35 Squadron Warrant Officer Engineering, Warrant Officer Mark Taylor, was responsible for the safety and wellbeing of personnel and ensured there was a maintenance capability.

“For Operation Solania, our team consisted of both avionics and aircraft technicians supporting daily Spartan flights in the maritime environment,” Warrant Officer Taylor said.

“Solania had its own unique challenges due to the isolated nature of the areas of operation where equipment and support services were limited.

“Teams often travel to locations where communication to home can be difficult, so we embark an autonomous crew who can maintain the aircraft while deployed, independent of the maintenance support available in Australia.”

The maintenance team achieved a 100 per cent mission success rate for Solania with all sorties being conducted on time and as planned.

Kuru Kuru was coordinated by the FFA, with Pacific Island nations deploying vessels to sea in a targeted effort to detect and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.