The final sortie of a C-130J from its former Middle East home base of Al-Udeid in Qatar was greeted by a traditional firetruck water canon salute by RAAF and Coalition fire crews on November 5 (pictured).
The relocation of the 37SQN C-130s will allow them to better support operations in Afghanistan, and came about following a Defence review of Middle East basing options. One report suggests the relocation could save the Hercules detachment 1000 flying hours annually.
“The review determined significant efficiency gains in logistic support as well as reducing fatigue on our personnel and equipment,” C-130 detachment commander SQNLDR Peter Cseh said in a statement.
Australia is spending $87 million on new accommodation, hangars and maintenance facilities at Al Minhad, which is already home to the Australian National Headquarters, which has relocated from Baghdad, and the RAAF’s AP-3C Orion detachment (which has been based there since 2003). Several other Coalition nations operate from Al Minhad, including the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
(It is Australian government policy not to disclose the locations of ADF bases in the Middle East due to host nation “sensitivities”, but the basing of Australian forces at Al Minhad has been widely reported in the media.)
Since 2003 RAAF C-130s (both H and J models) in the MEAO have flown nearly 11,000 sorties, carried 28,600 tonnes of cargo, 130,000 passengers and assisted wounded personnel during 2300 AME sorties, according to Defence.