Recent history of Air Force humanitarian assistance


  • As part of Operation FIJI ASSIST 16 up to 1,000 Australian Defence Force personnel provided humanitarian support and undertook disaster relief work following Tropical Cyclone Winston, delivering critical aid supplies to the people of Fiji and helping to repair schools, community centres and hospitals. Air Force, in tandem with Navy’s HMAS Canberra and Army’s 16th Aviation Brigade, conducted more than 40 C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules sorties between Australia and Fiji. The combined operation delivered over 114 tonnes of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; over 140 tonnes of aid including food, shelter kits, tents, construction materials and humanitarian supplies; provided power to four villages, water facilities to 700 people, constructed a large number of temporary shelters; emergency repairs to nine schools, three medical centres, five community centres and four churches; approximately 340 assessments of infrastructure conducted by Australian Army Engineers with Fijian civilian and military experts.


  • Following a devastating earthquake in Nepal two C-17A Globemaster aircraft delivered aid supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Between 29 April and 3 May these aircraft delivered 340,517lbs of cargo and carried 322 passengers including a RAAF Aero Medical Evacuation team, specialist Defence logistic staff and Australian and foreign national evacuees.
  • The people of Vanuatu were still trying to comprehend the devastation left in the wake of Cyclone Pam when the first RAAF aircraft arrived with relief and medical supplies, ADF and medical personnel. Two AP-3C Orions deployed to Honiara in the Solomon Islands, surveyed the damage and provided initial assessments and two KA-350 King Airs supported the AP-3C operations. Two C-17A Globemasters and a C-130J Hercules flew around-the-clock operations delivering relief stores, urban search and rescue personnel and members of the Australian Medical Assistance Team while also evacuating Australian citizens. The much-needed stores include hygiene kits, blankets, shelter kits, insect nets, water storage buckets and water purification tablets.


  • Air Force delivered 200 tonnes of cargo and equipment to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) after an outbreak of violence. Air Force personnel conducted eight C-17A Globemaster flights and two C-130J Hercules flights delivering strategic airlift support and transporting UN personnel to assist the UNMISS from 3-12 January.
  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 after leaving Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people on board. Four AP-3C Orions from No. 92 Wing were assigned to flight operations at RAAF Base Pearce in support of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority-led search and rescue mission.
  • Operation Bring Them Home began with the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine on 17 July. Defence played a significant role in supporting the Dutch-led support mission to secure the crash site and recover victims and their personal effects.
    Two RAAF C-17A Globemaster crews operating from Eindhoven led the ADF contribution. Additional RAAF aircraft flew support missions between Australia and the Netherlands, and headquarters staff, logisticians, planners, medical specialists, security personnel and other enabling staff in Australia and the Netherlands ensured that those in Ukraine had the resources and back-up needed to carry out this difficult task in a complex security environment.
  • An RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft completed the most complex operational humanitarian air drop mission in more than a decade to save lives in northern Iraq after a group of civilians, most from the Yazidi minority, had fled to Mt Sinjar to escape attacks by Daesh.
    The cargo included 150 boxes of high-energy biscuits and 340 boxes of bottled water – enough to sustain 3700 people for 24 hours. The operational air drop was the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999.


  • Following the typhoon in the Philippines, C-130J Hercules aircraft delivered Australian Medical Assistance Team personnel and equipment to Tacloban. RAAF aircraft transported over 280 tonnes of humanitarian and disaster relief cargo during Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST. C-130J Hercules flights evacuated over 1100 internally displaced people from Tacloban to Mactan and Guiuan Air Fields and transported over 300 people including military personnel, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Emergency Management Australia personnel, Australian Medical Assistant Teams (AUSMAT) and Japanese Self Defense Force personnel and Japanese medical teams into Tacloban to assist with relief efforts.
  • RAAF Base Glenbrook personnel provided assistance with refueling fire fighting aircraft, emergency accommodation and meals for firefighters, clean-up and recovery following in October 2013 during Operation NSW Bushfire Assist.
  • Two C-17A Globemaster aircraft and their specialist personnel transported two 20-tonne mobile diesel powered generators and transformers to Tasmania in the wake of the bushfires in January 2013.
  • C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft evacuated 90 patients from Bundaburg Hospital, which was being threatened by rising floodwaters. Read the articles in the Air Force News Jan 2013 edition.



  • Disaster relief was provided to Fiji and Samoa in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Evan in December 2012. This involved C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules aircraft transporting supplies including tarpaulins, blankets, hygiene kits, water containers, Oxfam buckets, shelter kits, water purification tablets, and mosquito nets. Over a five day period a total of 237,820 pounds of cargo was delivered by C-17A Globemaster, while a total of 78,652 pounds was delivered by C-130J Hercules.
  • RAAF Base East Sale personnel assisted with sand-bagging during the Gippsland floods in June 2012.
  • Aero-medical evacuation was conducted by C-130J Hercules of 32 senior citizens from the St George Flood Zone during Operation Queensland Flood Assist in February 2012.



  • Urban search and rescue workers were transported by C-17A Globemaster from Australia to Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Following this, the C-17A Globemaster conducted internal airlift flights in Japan, carrying Japan Self Defense Force personnel, vehicles and supplies to assist with the recovery effort. In all, 450 tonnes of cargo and 135 passengers were carried.
  • After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported urban search and rescue workers and medical professionals to the city’s airport. A portable desalination plant and mobile field hospital were also delivered.
  • Multiple relief flights were conducted in northern Queensland during Cyclone Yasi in February 2011 involving a pair of C-17A Globemasters and two C-130J Hercules transports. Relief activities included the aero-medical evacuation of 173 hospital patients from Cairns area hospitals to Brisbane on the night of 1-2 February, as Cyclone Yasi approached the city. Subsequent flights saw 35 patients returned to Cairns after the cyclone, over 322 tonnes of cargo airlifted (including 200 tonnes of groceries delivered to Cairns by C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft) and damage surveillance flights flown by AP-3C Orion.
  • Relief was provided for the flood-affected communities in Queensland and Victoria in 2011. This task included transporting more than 450 tonnes – or a million pounds – of cargo, and more than 200 passengers using C-17A Globemasters, C-130J Hercules, and KA350 King Air transport aircraft. Remarkably, some Air Force personnel continued working while their own homes were affected by flooding.


Older humanitarian tasks include:

  • Operation Pakistan Assist I and II - the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods
  • Recovery and transport of Australians killed in the Kokoda air crash in Papua New Guinea in 2009
  • Delivering Puma helicopters and AusAid supplies following Cyclone Nargis in Burma in 2008
  • Cyclone Larry in North Queensland in 2006
  • One of the biggest responses came in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Sumatra, which saw Air Force C-130H, C-130J and Boeing 707 aircraft deliver Defence personnel and aid.
  • Air Force has also conducted aero-medical evacuation flights following the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005.