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RNZAF Orion and Crew Busy on Multiple Fronts in South West Pacific

The Orion has been sent to deliver mail to Raoul Island, survey signs of activity from an underwater volcano, and conduct maritime surveillance patrols in support of Pacific Island nations. The crew will also brief officials in Niue about the NZDF’s maritime surveillance and search and rescue operations in the region.

“This is a perfect example of the range of tasks we do in support of other New Zealand government agencies, as well as our South West Pacific neighbours,” Group Captain Shaun Sexton, the Acting Air Component Commander, said.

“The other driver, of course, is efficiency. Whenever we send an aircraft to do a job, it usually has three to four other tasks to complete. That way we get a lot more done from a single mission.”

Squadron Leader Jimmy Peters, the aircraft captain, said the first item on the Orion’s to-do list was to air-drop about 130 kilograms of mail for Department of Conservation staff based in the remote Kermadec Islands.

The aircraft will also survey Monowai, an active underwater volcano halfway between Tonga and the Kermadecs, for GNS Science.

On Friday (NZT), a 17-member team led by Squadron Leader Peters will brief officials from several Niue government agencies, including the Niue Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Niue Police, about the NZDF’s maritime surveillance and search and rescue capabilities. They will also give Niue officials a quick tour of the Orion.

Squadron Leader Peters said he expected “mutually beneficial discussions” with Niue officials following the briefing.

“It’s good to have these face-to-face engagements where we can chat about how we conduct search and rescue and maritime patrols and also gain an understanding of their expectations,” he said.

“This is essential, so we can work together smoothly if and when required in the future.”

The NZDF regularly sends aircraft and ships to conduct maritime surveillance patrols in support of South West Pacific countries. In 2017, RNZAF planes flew 114 hours on nine search and rescue missions in the Pacific.

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