Home' Air Force News : February 16th 2012 Contents 3
February 16, 2012
WHEN Air Force's Orions clocked up
nine years of continuous service in the
Middle East on January 28, two men
who were there at the very start were
once more involved.
The milestone was reached dur-
ing an over-water mission in search
of suspected pirates and smuggling
operations over the Red Sea.
Among the aircrew on the flight
were two members of the inaugural
sortie flown in the MEAO on January
28, 2003. FLTLT Nathan Bunt (then
a SGT airborne electronics analyst),
who was the pilot in command of the
AP-3C, and WOFF Richard Engel
(then FSGT), who was the senior air-
borne electronics analyst.
Following the flight, the two 'orig-
inal' detachment members joined their
task group colleagues to help cele-
brate the milestone with a cake at Al
Minhad Air Base.
Commander Surveillance and
Response Group (SRG) AIRCDRE
Stephen Osborne said it was a great
tribute to SRG personnel who had
worked long hours flying and main-
taining the Orions.
"Many of our 92WG members
have completed multiple deployments
to the Middle East, and I thank their
families and friends back home for
their support," he said.
SQNLDR Jesse Laroche, com-
mander of the AP-3C task unit, said
the AP-3C operations were a team
"The entire task unit always
puts in their best effort to ensure we
achieve an extremely high mission
success rate and keep operations here
safe and effective," SQNLDR Laroche
"To be able to do that day in and
day out successfully for nine years is
incredibly professionally rewarding.
"Perhaps what makes this [mile-
stone] so special is not just the efforts
of our frontline aircrew and mainte-
nance personnel, but the tireless work
by intelligence, imagery analysts,
operations officers, logistics and many
other combat support personnel who
combine to help the AP-3C generate
a product that is highly regarded and
sought after by our many coalition
Over the past nine years, the Orion
crews have conducted overland intel-
ligence, surveillance and reconnais-
sance tasks in Afghanistan and Iraq,
maritime patrols of the Persian Gulf
and North Arabian Sea and more
recently, counter-piracy missions
in the vicinity of Somalia, working
closely with the US-led Combined
Maritime Force and other internation-
al task forces.
"When we flew our first operation-
al sortie in the Gulf of Oman back in
2003 it was certainly an exciting time
for the men and women of 92WG
who had trained very hard for precise-
ly that day," SQNLDR Laroche said.
"As capable as we were then, the
truly remarkable achievement has
been the continual advancement and
adaptation of the AP-3C and aircrew
to a constantly changing regional
"By the end of 2003 the upgraded
AP-3C was regularly flying a brand
new role over land, directly support-
ing coalition ground forces in the sta-
bilisation of Iraq.
"In 2012 our commitment now
ranges from Afghanistan, in sup-
port of the International Security
Assistance Force, to the Arabian Sea
and Indian Ocean off the Horn of
Africa in support of maritime security
and counter-piracy operations."
The Orion detachment includes
up to 100 people and two aircraft
at any one time. In August 2011 the
Orion achieved another remarkable
feat, flying 20,000 hours of opera-
tional missions in the Middle East.
This equates to 833 days of 24-hour
operations or two-and-a-quarter
years of continuous flying.
AN AP-3C crew provided support
to Papua New Guinean efforts to
locate and rescue survivors fol-
lowing the sinking of the ferry
MV Rabaul Queen in Papua New
Guinea on February 2.
The aircraft was tasked to sup-
port the search and rescue efforts
following a request from the
Australian Maritime Authority.
The crew located two survivors
clinging to debris and directed
vessels involved in the search for
The Commander of Joint
Task Force 639 Air Component
Coordination Element, SQNLDR
Brett Williams, said the crew did
a fantastic job.
"They should all be extremely
proud of their efforts," SQNLDR
The MV Rabaul Queen sank
about 16km off Finschhafen while
on a voyage from Kimbe to Lae.
There were believed to have
been 350 people on board, of
whom more than 200 were res-
Chief of Joint Operations
LTGEN Ash Power also praised
the Orion crews for their efforts.
"This task highlights the
capacity of our Defence Force
to react quickly to requests for
assistance and to work in coopera-
tion with, and in support of, other
agencies on potential life-saving
missions," he said.
OC 92WG GPCAPT Craig
Heap said while not its primary
role, the AP-3C was on permanent
stand-by for search and rescue
missions. "We've been involved
in many successful rescues, from
local incidents to major national
and international emergencies,"
GPCAPT Heap said.
Parliamentary Secretary for
Defence Senator David Feeney
said the ADF would always be
ready to assist Australia's regional
neighbours in times of emergency.
"Papua New Guinea is one of
our closest friends in our region
and I'm very pleased that the
RAAF was able to respond so
promptly to this situation," Mr
"The Australian Government
greatly regrets the loss of life fol-
lowing the sinking of the MV
Rabaul Queen and will offer any
assistance we can to Papua New
Finding PNG ferry survivors
of Crew 1,
in front of an
Orion at Al
cut the cake
in the Middle
Links Archive February 2nd 2012 March 1st 2012 Navigation Previous Page Next Page