(July 14, 2009) -- The Royal Australian Air Force's giant C-17 Heavy Air Lift aircraft based at Amberley have achieved a major milestone in support of Australian Defence Force operations in Afghanistan with the first landing on the remote air-strip at Tarin Kowt to deliver vital stores and equipment.
"What made the mission a significant milestone for this aircraft was the fact the airstrip at Tarin Kowt is a dirt strip and this was the first ever landing and take off by an Australian C-17 on dirt in a war zone, which presents a whole range of new challenges for jet aircraft," the Air Component Commander of the Joint Australian Task Force in the Middle East Group Captain Gary Martin said.
The Commander of Australian forces in the Middle East, Major General Mark Kelly said the arrival of the aircraft at Tarin Kowt was a significant achievement for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the coalition mission in Afghanistan.
"The aircraft's first mission to where our soldiers are operating on the ground with their Afghan National Army and Coalition colleagues - and landing on a dirt strip for the first time - has demonstrated not only the capability of the aircraft and the skills of the aircrew, but also our intent to do all we can for those taking the fight up to the insurgents who are trying to destabilise the country," Major General Kelly said.
The C-17, which only started flying with the RAAF in December 2006, delivered its first load to Australian Army personnel serving with the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force-Two (MRTF-2) based at Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province, southern Afghanistan.
The RAAF's four C-17 aircraft, part of No.36 Squadron at Amberley, are capable of carrying almost four times the load, over twice the distance, of the RAAF's transport workhorse, the C130 Hercules, which have been supporting Australian forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan since 2002.
Mission Loadmaster Warrant Officer John Maddigan described the operation as a key moment in the RAAF's ability to get heavy loads to where they were needed most.
"While we have done missions to the Middle East before, being able to take the next step and get bulk stores and equipment into Afghanistan itself is extremely satisfying," he said.
The RAAF's C-17s will continue to play a key role in the logistic sustainment effort in support of Australian and Coalition forces in Afghanistan during the upcoming Afghan national elections.
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