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3 Squadron History

Formed as a Territorial unit based at Christchurch in 1930, No.3 Squadron got its first aircraft (Baffins) in 1938. During the early days of WWII the Squadron, flying Vincents, patrolled the approaches to Lyttelton harbour. In November 1942 operating Hudson patrol bombers from Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, it was the first RNZAF operational squadron to engage in direct combat with the Japanese.

The Squadron completed three operational tours of the South West Pacific, the latter tours with Ventura medium bombers. During the tours it was based at Espritu Santo, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Emirau, Green Island and New Britain.

Part of the post-war Territorial Air Force 1948 - 1957, No.3 Squadron was based at Wigram (Christchurch) with Tiger Moths, Harvards and Mustangs. The Squadron was reformed in 1965 at RNZAF Base Auckland (Hobsonville) where it became the Air Force's only Squadron to operate helicopters.

Since then with Sioux, Iroquois and Wasp helicopters (Naval Flight 1966 - 2005), the Squadron has made regular deployments around the world carrying out NZDF tasks. Iroquois have been carried in Hercules transport to assist with cyclone relief operations in South Pacific island states, to exercises in Australia, Vanuatu, South East Asia, to the United Kingdom and Antarctica.  In early 2002, following the disbandment of the Air Combat Force, the squadron moved from Hobsonville to its new base at RNZAF Base Ohakea, where it resides today. 

Elements of the squadron have seen operational service in the Sinai (as part of the Multi National Force and Observers 1981-1985) and in Bougainville (as part of the New Zealand led Truce Monitoring Group November 1997 - April 1998). In September 1999, a 3 Squadron detachment deployed to East Timor in support of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) and then the follow-on United Nations force (UNTAET). The detachment withdrew from East Timor in November 2002, having completed nine personnel rotations and 7800 accident-free flying hours.

After only six months back in NZ, No 3 Squadron was again called at short notice to support an overseas mission, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). An Iroquois detachment served at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (where, incidentally, a 3 Squadron detachment was based in 1942-43, and from where one of its aircraft became the first RNZAF aircraft to engage in combat with the Japanese) from May 2003 – May 2004.

The Naval Flight replaced their Wasps with Kaman SH-2F Seasprites in 1997 – 1998, and these were progressively replaced with new-build SH-2G(NZ) variants. On 31 October 2005 the Naval Support Flight was removed from 3 Squadron’s order of battle and established as No 6 Squadron RNZAF.