The New Zealand Defence Force has begun testing new beach landing equipment and P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Fiji.
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The NZDF successfully trialled beach landing equipment in an overseas environment for the first time while launching beach preparation extraction vehicles from (BPEV) HMNZS Canterbury’s landing craft during Operation Mahi Tahi on 6 April.
The BPEV cleared wood and rock debris, smoothing the beach area for other vehicles to land before a temporary trackway over soft sand was laid to allow light vehicles, trucks, and non-4WD vehicles to go ashore at Lomolomo Beach on Viti Levu.
New Zealand Army 5th Movements Company, Amphibious Beach Team Commander Lieutenant Wilkie said the BPEV can be fitted with a push plate to force the landing craft off the shoreline if it becomes stuck there and it also has a rear winch for land vehicle recovery.
“Operation Mahi Tahi is about making sure that we are ready to assist in the Pacific if we need to respond to a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situation,” LT Wilkie said.
“Having this opportunity to deploy on the Canterbury to Fiji has been a great chance for us to build up experience within the team and test the capability.
“We haven’t practised this type of amphibious landing for a while and this is the first time we’ve used both the BPEV and CAT938K overseas so it’s really great to see it deployed here at Lomolomo Beach.”
In a separate exercise, the Royal New Zealand Air Force trialled a new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft operating out of Nadi, Fiji.
The RNZAF will field a fleet of four Poseidons supporting peace and security operations, maritime surveillance, search and rescue, resource protection, and humanitarian assistance and disaster responses in New Zealand, the Pacific and around the world. They are scheduled to start flying on operations with No. 5 Squadron this year.
Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Shaun Sexton, said operational trials and development were an important part of the introduction into service of a modern aircraft like the Poseidon.
“With the inaugural flight to Fiji by one of our new P-8A aircraft, and with Fiji being the first Pacific nation the P-8A will operate from during the trials, we’re also continuing a connection with Fiji which goes back many years,” Air Commodore Sexton said.
“Long-range maritime patrol aircraft operated from Fiji during and after World War II. No. 5 Squadron was formed in Laucala Bay and for more than 13 years flew Short Sunderland flying boats from there.
“We have based our P-3K2 aircraft in Fiji during multi-day search and rescue operations or maritime patrols in the Pacific. We’re really looking forward to seeing this connection continue.”
The trials and development phase ensured all operating systems, including aircrew, maintenance, mission support and air enablers were ready for missions, he said.