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Boost for troubled Spartan as it aids WA flood victims

written by Adam Thorn | January 13, 2023

A RAAF C-27J Spartan aircraft conducts an evacuation of people from Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region. (LSIS Jarrod Mulvihill, Defence)

The ADF has used RAAF C-27J Spartans to fly WA flood victims without access to their homes to Broome.

It follows the “once in a century” weather event in the Kimberley region caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie, which left around 100 properties uninhabitable.

The news will enhance support for the beleaguered Spartan after Labor last year highlighted its inability to land on battlefields as an example of mismanagement of Defence projects by the previous Liberal federal government.

Jeanette Gould, from WA’s Department of Communities, said her agency supports people with accommodation or helps them to move in with family or relatives.

“There are many people whose houses have been inundated with flood waters, and there is no timeframe on when they will be able to move back in,” Gould said.


“We are working with Defence to transfer those people to Broome, from where we will provide them with food, money, emergency clothing, help reunify them with family and, if needed, offer them counselling.”

Defence said the airstrip at Fitzroy Crossing was initially cut off by flooding, but aircraft are now able to move supplies and personnel around the region.

Air Force loadmaster Corporal Deniele Oehm was part of the crew that helped 14 people from three families on one of the first Defence evacuation flights out of Fitzroy Crossing.

“These families are so thankful, and it’s great to see the kids so excited,” Corporal Oehm said.

“It was just a matter of making them feel comfortable because this was their first time on a military aircraft.”

Australia currently has 10 Spartans operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, which now focuses on peacetime operations such as search and rescue and aeromedical operations.

The RAAF initially bought the aircraft as a replacement for the Caribou to fit in between the Chinook and larger Hercules and C-17 Globemaster.

Despite the first arriving in 2015, problems with its electronic self-protection system — designed to keep it safe under fire — mean it still has not achieved Final Operational Capability (FOC).

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts, who previously headed air force capability, said in 2019, “The C-27J program has been challenging and … there have been significant delays in terms of achieving the capability outcomes that were originally determined.”

However, she argued that the aircraft would still play a “significant role” in Australia’s defence capabilities.

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