Australia’s deployment of a RAAF C-17 airlifter to Japan will continue for another week, Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced on Saturday.
The decision follows requests by both Japan and the US for the C-17 to continue to support relief efforts in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The C-17 airlifted a Emergency Services Task Force (ESTF) – comprising NSW Police, Fire and Ambulance service personnel, ACT fire fighters, and search and rescue dog handlers from Queensland – to Yokota Airbase, where it landed in the early hours of March 14. Since that time the aircraft has remained in Japan, operating a range of support flights.
Tasks have included ferrying more than 45 tonnes of drinking water from Hokkaido to Misawa, and ferrying equipment and personnel of the Japan Ground Self Defence Force’s 15th Brigade from Okinawa to the Japanese mainland for disaster relief work.
An eight-person Mobile Air Load Team also deployed to Japan on the C-17 to aid in preparing and arranging loads for the aircraft.
“The extension underlines Australia’s continuing commitment to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response in Japan and our close bilateral relationship,” said Smith.
Smith said Australia was the only other nation outside the US to provide C-17 airlift assistance for Japan relief operations, with RAAF crews “working closely with the United States Forces Japan Air Operations Command”.