A C-27J Spartan welcomed a new passenger aboard its final flight for the first iteration of Operation Solania in 2022. 

President of the Republic of Palau, Surangel Whipps Junior, joined a flight over the nation to experience firsthand the aerial maritime surveillance work the ADF conducted in the region. 

Working alongside Palauan authorities, the C-27J Spartan’s role in Palau was to detect and deter potential illegal fishing in Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone in support of Operation Rai Balang, an annual multinational patrol coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

President Surangel Whipps Junior enjoyed the experience and opportunity to view his home from a new angle. He thanked the ADF contingent for their work, with Australia reciprocating this gratitude in the form of a plaque presented by No. 35 Squadron. 

The C-27J Spartan crew was happy to welcome other Palauan officials and dignitaries for their final flight, including the Vice President of Palau, J. Uduch Sengebau Senior, and Paramount Chief Reklai Raphael Ngirmang. 

President of the Republic of Palau, Surangel Whipps Junior, right, and Paramount Chief Reklai Raphael Ngirmang, enjoy a scenic flight over their home in a C-27J Spartan during Operation Solania. Photo: Leading Seaman Nadav Harel

Paramount Chief Reklai, a retired US Marine and Vietnam veteran, said he was excited to join the military flight and thanked the crew. 

“Thank you for the work you do, not just to protect Palau’s waters, but the Indo-Pacific region. What you do is important, and I appreciate it,” Paramount Chief Reklai said. 

Australian Ambassador to Palau Richelle Turner was proud of the work the ADF achieved during their time in Palau. 

“It has been wonderful to have the ADF here in the community, working alongside Palau’s Marine Law members and the Forum Fisheries Agency to deliver on operational tasking as well as engaging with the Palauan community through outreach with several school visits and community events,” Ambassador Turner said. 

As the No. 35 Squadron crew looks back on their time in Palau, they can be proud of the work they have done. 

Over the course of three weeks, the C-27J Spartan sighted 117 vessels and covered a total surveillance footprint of 229,080 nautical miles. 

To view more photos visit the Defence image gallery.