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Air Warfare Centre supports Tongan relief efforts

A C-17A Globemaster III airlift aircraft at RAAF Base Amberley prepares to support Operation Tonga Assist. Credit: Department of Defence

The Air Warfare Centre has supported the Tongan government with mapping and data to better understand the damage caused by the recent underwater volcanic eruption.

The Air Warfare Centre has supported the Tongan government with mapping and data to better understand the damage caused by the recent underwater volcanic eruption.

Last week, the Royal Australian Air Force sent two No. 11 Squadron P-8A Poseidon aircraft to capture aerial photography of the Tongan archipelago to support the Tongan government’s recovery efforts following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano.

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The imagery was later assessed by the Air Warfare Centre’s No. 83 Squadron, providing essential data to the Tongan government.

“Our key role was to assess the damage to critical infrastructure and several of Tonga's remote settlements,” Leading Aircraftman Bradley Bleeker from No. 83 Squadron told Defence.

“Particular focus was put on airfields and ports to determine whether it would be safe for Australian Defence Force and other aircraft and shipping to deliver humanitarian assistance.

“This was my first time supporting a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission, and it felt good to be able to help the Tongan people.”

Flight Lieutenant Sonik Patel, P-8A tactical coordinator, explained that the succe3ss of the mission relied on the collaborative efforts of multiple teams within the ADF.

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“Our role was to capture imagery to enable damage assessments of the Tongan islands, so other ADF assets and government agencies could identify the best way to meet the request for assistance,” FLTLT Patel said.

“My role was to coordinate sensor operators and other mission specialists to ensure that we made the most efficient use of the aircraft.

“As a crew, we collected as much useful information as possible to inform the people and agencies that need it.

“This has been an incredibly humbling, yet rewarding operation to be a part of and my thoughts go out to the people of Tonga.”

Last week, HMAS Adelaide commenced it’s departure to support Tonga, having ben set into pre-position in Brisbane. On board the Adelaide are critical stores and equipment to support humanitarian efforts in the country as well as ADF personnel to support the disaster relief mission. 

“We are proud to work alongside His Majesty’s Tonga Armed Forces as well as other Pacific family partners including Fiji, New Zealand, Japan, United States, India, France and the UK as we start to coordinate this effort in support of a very important member of our Pacific Family,” Commander Joint Task Force 637 Major General Scott Winter said to Defence.

“The forces on board Adelaide are tailored to the requests of the government of Tonga and include provision of clean water, the movement of stores and reconnaissance.

“Adelaide’s desalination capability can produce a significant amount of clean water, which is one of the first priorities.”

[Related: Royal Navy to support relief effort in Tonga]

Air Warfare Centre supports Tongan relief efforts
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