A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III has air-dropped over nine tonnes of supplies to Antarctica in support of Operation Southern Discovery – the ADF’s contribution to Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) research.
Departing from Perth on 19 August, the C-17A travelled 11,000 kilometres on a 15-hour round trip, carrying vital equipment, fresh food, medical supplies, and mail and gifts from loved ones to the 18 scientists, researchers and staff at Mawson Station.
Co-pilot of the C-17A, Flying Officer Jack Palmer, outlined some of the challenges faced during the mission.
“One of the unique challenges was the night-time aspect of the drop, which we accounted for in our pre-mission planning with the AAD,” FLGOFF Palmer said.
“The mission was a unique experience and was very rewarding to be a part of.
“It was a great experience working with external agencies to Defence, as well as being involved in some more complex mission planning in order to get the job done.”
The mission required an in-flight refuelling over the Southern Ocean from a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport.
“The refuelling component of the mission presented its own challenges,” FLGOFF Palmer said.
“One of them was the duration of the refuelling. We needed to be plugged to the aircraft for 22 minutes, which was quite a taxing ordeal.
“The captain flew that, and did it well.”
The air drop involved approximately three months of planning, complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with personnel from Army’s 176 Air Dispatch Squadron required to quarantine in Tasmania for two weeks.
“We make sure everything we use is clean or brand new because we don’t want to introduce creatures or foreign bodies into Antarctica as it disrupts the environment,” 176 Air Dispatcher Crew Commander Corporal Rachel Jordan said.
CPL Jordan said the crew had to be prepared to ensure a soft landing.
“First, we establish what needs to be dropped, so we take into account weight and then we build a base using plywood, glue and a material called energy dissipating material [EDM],” CPL Jordan said.
“The EDM basically absorbs the impact when it hits the ground. It is different per load and depends on what the weight is, so there is a bit of engineering that goes into it to ensure a safe landing.
“Over the top we add aerial delivery equipment, wrap it all together and put a parachute on top.”
AAD general manager operations and safety Charlton Clark lauded the success of the operation.
“This aerial delivery of 23 loads of essential cargo will now support the station until our next resupply mission,” Clark said.
“It truly was an amazing undertaking, involving considerable challenges with both weather and logistics and I’m thrilled it’s been a success.”
The cargo and parachutes were later recovered by expeditioners off the ice in low light, strong winds and minus 25-degree temperatures.
Article courtesy of Defence Connect.