Spartan rides into first major international exercise
27 October 2017
The RAAF’s No. 35 Squadron has achieved a significant milestone this month, having deployed a C-27J Spartan Battlefield Air Lifter to participate in a major international exercise for the first time since the aircraft was brought into service by the Australian Defence Force.
The Spartan is in New Zealand to provide an air mobility capability for Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 – the New Zealand Defence Force’s largest combined and joint exercise.
The exercise features a variety of air, land and sea scenarios including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the evacuation of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid, maritime patrols, peacekeeping operations and conventional warfighting.
Thirteen countries are participating in Southern Katipo, with 17 fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters, five ships and more than three-thousand ground force personnel, as well as civilian agencies including Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The RAAF Spartan has transported more than 200 troops with their equipment and 11000 pounds of cargo into the exercise area since Southern Katipo started on 18 October, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Timor Leste, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
No. 35 Squadron C-27J Detachment Commander, Flight Lieutenant Jason Meyers said deploying to New Zealand for the exercise demonstrated the progress made by the squadron over the past two years to get the new aircraft fully operational.
“Our participation in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 represents a massive leap forward for 35 Squadron, demonstrating our ability to operate the C-27J Spartan in support of military operations, not just in Australia but also abroad,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
Flight Lieutenant Meyers, who is also the aircraft captain of the deployed Spartan, said the C-27J was contributing a unique capability to the exercise.
“We are one of the smallest fixed-wing aircraft operating in the fleet for this exercise, which also has C-17s and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and United States Air Force C-130s,” he said.
“The Spartan can operate more freely in environments where the C-17 is impacted by restrictions, making us a valuable capability for getting troops and cargo where they need to go, even in challenging situations.”
Flight Lieutenant Meyers said Southern Katipo was providing his crew with some great training opportunities, which would be difficult to replicate in Australia.
“I’m operating with two co-pilots and three loadmasters who are building their experience in this aircraft type,” Flight Lieutenant Meyers said.
“One of my co-pilots is here straight out of his initial qualification for the C-27J, so for him this is an excellent opportunity to enhance his experience and improve his knowledge and operating abilities on this aircraft.
“Additionally, the weather here in New Zealand is temperamental and challenging – with frequent low cloud, rain and constant windy conditions around most of the airfields and drop zones we are operating into.
“If you combine that with the mountainous terrain in the South Island, it provides my co-pilots, the loadmasters and I with a unique and valuable training experience that we can’t really get back home.”
As well as transporting personnel and equipment to RNZAF bases all over New Zealand, the C-27J Spartan crew is conducting air drops to help re-supply troops in the field as the exercise develops into its peacekeeping and war fighting phases.
The Australian Defence Force has also deployed a KA350 King Air and Air Load Teams to support the Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 Air Task Group, with a RAAF C-130 Hercules supporting the deployment of personnel from Australia to New Zealand.