A Royal Australian Air Force KA350 King Air and three pilots arrived in Honiara, Solomon Islands in early May, in support of Operation Solania 2022.

The aircraft was tasked with conducting aerial maritime surveillance patrols, to detect and deter potential illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity inside the Solomon Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Flight Lieutenant Riley Forde said the mission involved flying up to two four-hour sorties each day throughout the region.

“Our role is to identify and record all fishing vessels within the Solomon Islands EEZ to report to relevant authorities,” he said.

“We can tell the type and function of a vessel visually, it enables us to collate all the relevant information to report the vessels we come across.”

With two pilots in the cockpit and another observing at the rear, the crew conducted low-level flying and manoeuvres to carry out the task.

Flight Lieutenant Forde said it was a different style of flying than transiting from one airport to another.

“The flying is quite dynamic. We’re searching an area and reacting to what we see rather than following a prescribed route,” he said.

“We operate at around 1000 ft – sometimes down to 250 ft depending on weather – and fly the aircraft to the point of its endurance, to ensure we cover the greatest area possible.”

Operation Solania is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to maritime surveillance within the Pacific region.