Defence Minister David Johnston has praised as “exemplary” the professionalism and dedication of Australian Defence Force personnel serving at key military establishments at Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Senator Johnston made the remarks at the end of a two-day official visit to the Top End. This included observing the major international air exercise, Pitch Black, hosted by the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), inspecting a display by troops from Army’s 1st Brigade, briefings on border protection by Northern Command and a visit to personally thank the commanders and crew of the Armidale Patrol Boat fleet at HMAS Coonawarra.
The Defence Minister travelled to Darwin onboard an RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which provided air-to-air refuelling for two F/A-18 Hornets over Tindal RAAF base near Katherine.
The KC-30A has a fuel capacity of more than 100 tonnes, and can remain 1,800 kilometres from its home base with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours.
“I am very appreciative of the detailed briefing on the KC-30A provided by Air Commodore Warren McDonald, head RAAF’s Air Mobility Group. I am optimistic this aircraft will soon be removed from the Projects of Concern,” he said.
“At Robertson Barracks I had the pleasure of meeting 1st Brigade Commander, Brigadier John Frewen, and Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Puglisi Commanding Officer of the 1150 United States Marine Corps troops currently deployed in the Top End for “dry season” military training.
“The US deployment has been seamless and I note the Marines are making good use of the vast Bradshaw exercise area before the onset of the wet season,” Senator Johnston said.
The Defence Minister was invited to inspect a display of equipment currently in service with 1st Brigade including the M1-Abrams tank, Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter and Explosives Detection equipment operated by the unit’s combat engineers.
He commended the troops on a first class display and their detailed knowledge of complex war-fighting equipment.
On Thursday, Senator Johnston visited RAAF Base Darwin for a briefing by Squadron Leader Troy Holmes in charge of the Air Component of Task Force 639 operators of the P3C Orion aircraft tasked with long-endurance patrols over Australia’s northern approaches.
Senator Johnston said despite their age, RAAF’s P3C Orions, which have been operating out of Darwin for more than a decade, are among the most capable of their type in the world.
The Minister was briefed by Commodore Brenton Smyth, Commander of Northern Command, before meeting operational staff involved in key tasks related to border security.
The final visit was to the nearby Armidale Class Patrol Boat fleet at HMAS Coonawarra, home base to 10 patrol boats supporting Operation Sovereign Borders.
“One of my priorities in travelling to Darwin was to meet with the patrol boat crews and personally thank them for their exceptional work in very difficult and challenging circumstances,” Senator Johnston said.
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Mark Dodd (Minister Johnston's Office) 0477 389 560
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999