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NZDF Orion Completes 16-Month Middle East Operation

A P-3K2 Orion returned home this evening from a 16-month operation in the Middle East

9 December 2015

A New Zealand Defence Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft returned home this evening from a 16-month operation in the Middle East, where it worked as part of an international partnership against piracy and the trafficking of people and drugs.

The Orion and a supporting detachment comprised of 53 personnel were deployed to one of the NZDF’s significant missions in the Middle East region. Their mission was also the longest to be undertaken by the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) No 5 Squadron.

“The Orion’s operation helped protect a vital route for global commerce and represented New Zealand’s contribution to enhance maritime security in the Middle East,” said Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand.

“It also affirmed New Zealand’s ongoing international commitment to global security,” he said.

The detachment conducted a total of 174 maritime surveillance flights, involving around 1400 flying hours, in support of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). The 30-nation naval partnership promotes maritime security and seeks to defeat terrorism and prevent piracy and the trafficking of people and drugs.

“The extraordinary skill and dedication displayed by your P-3K2 aircrews and Mission Support Element were essential to maritime security throughout the region,” Vice Admiral (VADM) Kevin Donegan of the US Naval Forces Central Command said in a letter to MAJGEN Gall.

“Your partnership deterred aggression in the maritime domain, assured our regional partners and ensured the free flow of commerce through one of the world’s busiest chokepoints,” he said.

Wing Commander Brian Ruiterman, the mission’s Senior National Officer, said the entire contingent felt a great sense of pride in what they have accomplished.

“Our work has helped the CMF locate and intercept vessels involved in illegal activities including piracy and drug smuggling. Based upon their feedback, we set the benchmark for performance. We have successfully operated a long way from home for a long period of time and at a high operational tempo.”

In October 2014, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Orion guided the Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba to a ship off the coast of Somalia that was smuggling almost 6000kgs of hashish, with an estimated street value of NZ$360 million. The Orion and Toowoomba had trailed the dhow from the Arabian Sea to the Horn of Africa.

In June 2015, surveillance work conducted by the detachment helped the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha to seize 118kgs of heroin worth an estimated NZ$108 million in the West Indian Ocean.

“The RNZAF Orion has made a difference and that contribution is appreciated by our CMF partners,” Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley said.

“This contribution from New Zealand has helped keep the seas safe in the Middle East,” he said.

ENDS

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