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RAAF Spartan and King Air spot illegal fishing

written by Adam Thorn | September 6, 2022

RAAF pilot Flying Officer Lauren Townsend from No. 35 Squadron co-pilots a C-27J Spartan during a maritime surveillance mission out of Port Vila, Vanuatu. (Defence, CPL David Cotton)

A RAAF C-27J Spartan and a KA350 King Air has been patrolling the South West Pacific to conduct surveillance missions to stop illegal fishing.

The aircraft were helping the island countries of Vanuatu and Kiribati as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Island Chief.

The RAAF C-27J Spartan and KA350 King Air aircraft operated out of Port Vila and Tarawa, respectively, at the request of the government of Kiribati.

The KA350 King Air crew reportedly flew 10 missions for the FFA, detecting and reporting more than 15 suspicious vessels and helping locate 10 vessels of interest.

The C-27J Spartan’s contribution included flying 11 missions over Vanuatu’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ), reporting more than 50 vessels to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).


Operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, the C-27J’s capabilities focus on regional peacetime operations including search and rescue, aeromedical operations, and airlift tasks such as troop movement, cargo transport, and airdrop operations.

Australia currently has a fleet of 10.

The KA350 King Air, meanwhile, is usually used for training and based at the  Air Mission Training School at RAAF Base East Sale. The RAAF has 12 KA350 King Airs belonging to 32 Squadron.

Eight are ex-38 Squadron aircraft and the other four are newly manufactured examples leased from Hawker Pacific.

In addition to the RAAF aircraft, an ADF Air liaison officer and geospatial and intelligence specialists were deployed to assist the FFA alongside members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Fijian Navy, and United States Coast Guard.

Commander of ADF Operations in the South West Pacific, Major General Scott Winter, said the ADF’s contribution formed part of a larger commitment to preserving stability in the region.

“Australia is committed to helping our Pacific family protect their fisheries resources, support regional security and counter transnational crime,” MAJGEN Winter said.

“Supporting operations like Island Chief allows us to work with the FFA, our Pacific partners, and members of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and France) to ensure the economic security and prosperity of the Pacific through the protection of its critical maritime industries and ecosystems.

“We are at our best when we face these challenges together — as partners, and as a region.”

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Comment (1)

  • James


    Illegal fishing will only get worse now with the Chinese having a ‘homebase’ available at Honiara.

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