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13 April 2012
PNGDF helicopter leasing project – contract signed
For immediate release
Tyson Sara, Assistant Secretary for the Pacific in Australia’s Department of Defence and Jan Booij, Managing Director of Hevilift PNG Ltd, conducted a contract signing ceremony today to re-establish an affordable, safe and effective helicopter capability within the Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s (PNGDF) Air Transport Wing (ATW).
The contract will be operational by the end of May, with the aim of providing aircraft in early June in time to contribute to elections preparations.
The contract will provide the PNGDF two twin-engine medium-lift helicopters, and one light training helicopter, for a period of two years.
The three aircraft, in PNGDF colours and markings, will be exclusively available for a total of up to 100 hours tasking per month by the Commander of the PNGDF across the full range of military missions, including border patrolling, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, security operations, and nation-building.
Mr Sara made the offer to fund this arrangement under the PNG-Australia Defence Cooperation Program at annual Defence Talks late last year.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will also provide an expert contract manager to help coordinate tasking and administration of the contract.
Although the arrangement is initially for a “wet” lease, whereby Hevilift will provide all regular maintenance and support, the aim is to migrate this to a “dry” lease at the end of the two years in order to rebuild the rotary wing capability of ATW sub-units and personnel.
Commander PNGDF, Brigadier General Francis Agwi CBE DMS, expressed his appreciation for the assistance and outlined operational and capability development benefits for the force.
“My staff are now planning how the air hours should be allocated between unit training, ATW capacity-rebuilding, interagency responsibilities, and operations, including a quick reaction force and to sustain and manoeuvre the deployed companies during the elections,” Brigadier General Agwi said.
A small team, comprising three ADF air operations planners and one New Zealand Defence Force specialist, is also working with PNG officials to help scope the overall requirement to meet Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s announcement on 16 March the ADF would work with the PNG Government and PNGDF to provide further air transport assistance. This is in response to PNG requests for additional rotary and fixed wing aircraft support to contribute to the movement of election materials and personnel.
Subject to the advice of those planners and the availability of additional ADF and NZDF aircraft, the two new PNGDF helicopters will form the core of a PNGDF-led Combined Joint Task Force comprising military aircraft and over a hundred personnel from all three countries.
Australian High Commissioner, Ian Kemish AM, said the new PNGDF helicopters and proposed air cooperation during elections reflected PNG and Australia’s close and longstanding defence partnership, which comprises an important component of the overall relationship between our two countries.
“The contract is an exciting practical manifestation of Australia’s willingness to meet PNG requests to help capability-rebuild an increasingly professional, capable and sustainable PNGDF. It is important our forces can work together effectively in regional stabilisation, peacekeeping, and disaster relief operations, as well as tasks such as supporting elections”, Mr Kemish said.
During the ceremony, Head of Australian Defence Staff, Colonel Mark Shephard, noted that the leadership team of PNG Defence, Brigadier General Agwi, and Secretary John Porti were prepared to consider innovative solutions to acquire necessary capability.
“Over recent years the ADF has increasingly found options other than outright ownership can often maximise the availability, serviceability and sustainability of major equipment – including some military aircraft – as well as providing the best value for money. I am delighted PNG Defence is also prepared to examine the benefit of utilising modern approaches to acquiring capabilities”, Colonel Shephard said.