The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has commenced deployment of a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft and personnel to assist with international efforts to evacuate New Zealanders and other foreign nationals from Afghanistan. NZDF personnel will be working to support the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, alongside our military partners, to facilitate the processing of eligible evacuees, The C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft departed RNZAF Base Auckland this morning with a portion of deploying personnel on board.
The remaining personnel are deploying over the coming days to a base in the Middle East region where they will provide planning, logistical and other support to assist with the evacuations. The aircraft would be part of a coalition air bridge which would see the aircraft flying between Afghanistan and airports in the Middle East with evacuees. The NZDF deployment is expected to be for a month, although that may change depending on requirements. All NZDF deploying personnel are vaccinated and will be carrying out COVID-19 prevention protocols. They will complete 14 days managed isolation on their return to New Zealand.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said,”the NZDF was deploying approximately 80 personnel including aircrew and maintenance staff, a medical team, operational support staff, logistics personnel and force protection personnel, amongst others. It will be a challenging mission given the changing circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan. The NZDF personnel deploying on this mission, and those involved in the planning in New Zealand, are making every effort to help get New Zealanders and other eligible evacuees out of Afghanistan safely.
Five Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft are in service. The aircraft have received a number of modifications and upgrades with the most recent being a Life Extension Programme (LEP) that started in 2005. This involved an extensive avionics upgrade of the flight deck and structural refurbishment. Upon completion of this programme the aircraft were re-designated the C-130H(NZ). The C-130H(NZ) provides strategic airlift (inter-theatre) and tactical airlift (intra-theatre) as well as participating in international training exercises. Tasks are flown in support of combat, peace-keeping and humanitarian relief operations.