NATION

Kiwi Choppers To The Rescue

The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) NH90 helicopters yesterday delivered essential aid supplies to cyclone-ravaged communities in Fiji as part of their first overseas mission. NH90 Detachment Commander Squadron Leader
05 Mar 2016 12:36
Kiwi Choppers  To The Rescue
A RNZAF NH90 Helicopter lands in Nasau, Koro Island to deliver personnel, aid, and equipment. The NZDF has deployed to Fiji to provide Humanitarian Aid and Distaster Relief following Tropical Cyclone Winston. Members of the New Zeland Medical Assistance Team help unload.

The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) NH90 helicopters yesterday delivered essential aid supplies to cyclone-ravaged communities in Fiji as part of their first overseas mission.

NH90 Detachment Commander Squadron Leader Ben Pryor said the multi-role helicopters were providing a critical link between the main population centres and the outlying islands which have been devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

“The range and lift capacity of the NH90 helicopter will greatly increase the speed with which aid can be distributed to those who need it most,” SQNLDR Pryor said.

“Food, water and shelter are the most pressing needs. We are assisting the government of Fiji to seize every opportunity to get aid supplies to affected people in hard-to-reach areas using our NH90 helicopters.”

News that New Zealand is assisting Fiji’s disaster recovery efforts has been warmly received at the Tuatua Nasau Primary and Secondary Schools in Koro Island, one of the areas turned into an utter wasteland by the devastating storm. The schools are serving as temporary shelters to Nasau village’s 500 residents who have been left homeless.

“I heard on radio that New Zealand has come to help. I saw the helicopter arrive this morning and a Fijian soldier told me it was the New Zealand military. That’s good because the Fiji government needs international help to rebuild everything that had been devastated by the cyclone,” 23-year-old housewife Eseta Kaitani said.

“We lost everything because of Winston – our house and everything in it, our little farm….We’ve been left with nothing and we don’t know what the future holds. So we are grateful that New Zealand and other countries are helping us.”

The humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation in Fiji marks the first time that the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90s are deployed on an operation overseas. The mercy flights are being conducted in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force, which has also deployed seven similar MRH-90 helicopters.

“Upon seeing the devastation, it’s good to be helping the people of Fiji; they are clearly suffering and need help. This is one of the things I imagined I’d be doing when I joined the Air Force, and I am glad for this opportunity to help the Fijians,” NH90 captain Flight Lieutenant George McInnes said.

“The crew from Ohakea’s No 3 Squadron have been looking forward to this fresh opportunity to operate with our Australian partners and to demonstrate their capability to assist in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” SQNLDR Pryor said.

The RNZAF NH90s are operating out of Nausori International Airport and may also potentially operate out of some of the remote outlying islands. They were transported to Fiji by the amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS CANTERBURY, just like when they were taken offshore for the first time in June 2015 for Exercise Talisman Sabre, Australia’s largest warfighting exercise.

The operations that the helicopters conducted with the ADF during Talisman Sabre demonstrated their capability to perform a wide range of tasks. They also confirmed their ability to support battlefield manoeuvres and their readiness to be deployed on operations throughout the Southwest Pacific.

Since they were introduced into the RNZAF in 2013, the NH90s have been used for search and rescue missions, transport for military and government personnel and lifting of equipment while also maintaining a counter-terrorism response.

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