A RAAF C-27J Spartan flight carrying 20 personnel from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) marked the beginning of air movements by the Australian Defence Force in support of the Papua New Guinea national election.

At the request of the PNG Government, the ADF is providing specialist planning and logistics support, including air mobility, using two C-27J Spartan and one C-130J Hercules transport aircraft. The aircraft are ideally suited to the mountainous terrain and tropical runways located across PNG.

RPNGC Superintendent Steven Francis, second-in-charge of planning for the national poll, said the first Spartan flight represented six weeks of meticulous planning by the PNG Joint Security Task Force and ADF logistics teams.

“For the planning team, it is a relief to see this first flight take off as it gives us the confidence that what we are doing with our counterparts in the ADF and the Joint Security Task Force will be successful,” Superintendent Francis said.

“Air movements have been one of our biggest challenges, making sure our personnel can move in time to oversee the operation, so it has been truly valuable assistance provided by the ADF.”

The flight will be the first of many across PNG in the lead-up to the election next month.

In addition to RPNGC personnel, the ADF will enable movements of the PNG Electoral Commission and other elements of the Joint Security Task Force, including the Correctional Services and the PNG Defence Force.

Operation Kimba contingent commander Wing Commander Michael Rouhan said the C-27J aircraft was particularly suited for operations in PNG.

“These aircraft allow us to get into some marginal airfields, particularly the shorter airfields up in the highlands. So they’re a natural fit for this style of operation,” Wing Commander Rouhan said.

“In addition, RAAF 35 Squadron is a sister unit to the PNG Defence Force Air Transport Wing here in Port Moresby and there’s some very close relationships among the teams that aid in achieving the mission outcome.”