February 17, 2017 – The New Zealand Defence Force has sent a 55-member contingent and an Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft to the Middle East as part of an international partnership against piracy and people and drug trafficking. The team will help patrol 3.2 million square miles of international water in the Middle East to support the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) over the next 12 months.
“Through this mission, we will help protect vital trade routes around the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and demonstrate once again our government’s longstanding commitment to global security,” Joint Forces New Zealand Commander Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall said.
The first rotation of personnel left for the Middle East on February 7, with the Orion following three days later.
The CMF is a 31-nation naval partnership that promotes maritime security and seeks to defeat terrorism and prevent piracy and people and drug trafficking.
Mission Commander Wing Commander (WGCDR) Daniel Hunt said the contingent was looking forward to working with New Zealand’s CMF partners to keep the seas safe in the Middle East.
“Everyone is upbeat, and with the world-class skills of our people I am confident we will be able to make a significant contribution,” WGCDR Hunt said.
The contingent aimed to represent New Zealand in a positive light and provide a meaningful contribution to security in the Middle East, he said.
“We were valued because of our high mission success rate in 2015 and the unique capabilities of our Orion, so we will be striving to achieve that again.”
The last NZDF Orion mission to support the CMF conducted 174 maritime surveillance flights involving about 1400 flying hours over 16 months to December 2015. It also helped the CMF locate and intercept vessels attempting to smuggle drugs worth nearly NZ$500 million.
“Working with other navies and air forces is always a bonus,” WGCDR Hunt said. “It allows you to benchmark your performance and provides opportunities to learn from each other. Invariably we measure up pretty well and my expectation is that it will be no different this time.
“The challenges will likely come from operating in a hot and dry environment. Temperature is less of an issue when you are airborne but before and after the flights the heat poses challenges to those working in and around the aircraft.”
WGCDR Hunt, the Commanding Officer of the Air Force’s No.5 Squadron until early this year, is an experienced hand, having completed three tours in the Middle East. He has also been deployed to Southeast Asia, South Pacific, Europe and the Caribbean.