Real-time mapping from the Air Warfare Centre has provided crucial information for the Tongan Government to better assess their response following the January 15 volcanic eruption.

The Air Warfare Centre’s No.83 Squadron analysed images and data after two No.11 Squadron’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft flew overflew Tonga to help determine the extent of the damage.   

Leading Aircraftman Bradley Bleeker was one of No. 83 Squadron's analysts who reviewed the imagery.

“Our key role was to assess the damage to critical infrastructure and several of Tonga's remote settlements,” he said.

“Particular focus was put on airfields and ports to determine whether it would be safe for Australian Defence Force and other aircraft and shipping to deliver humanitarian assistance.

“This was my first time supporting a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission, and it felt good to be able to help the Tongan people.”

The P-8A's tactical coordinator, Flight Lieutenant Sonik Patel, understood that they were just one piece of the puzzle, and that there was an enormous amount of people who enabled their mission success.

“Our role was to capture imagery to enable damage assessments of the Tongan islands, so other ADF assets and government agencies could identify the best way to meet the request for assistance,” Flight Lieutenant Patel said.

“My role was to coordinate sensor operators and other mission specialists to ensure that we made the most efficient use of the aircraft.

“As a crew, we collected as much useful information as possible to inform the people and agencies that need it.

“This has been an incredibly humbling, yet rewarding operation to be a part of and my thoughts go out to the people of Tonga.”

Defence continues to coordinate efforts with the Government of Tonga and other international partners to provide the best support possible to the Tongan people.