Ceremonial gifting of PAC 750 aircraft to the PNGDF

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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2 November 2023

(Acknowledgements omitted)

It is wonderful to be back in Port Moresby.

And it is a great pleasure to be with you today at the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) Air Transport Wing, to celebrate this milestone in our defence relationship.

It is the capstone on a year that has seen the defence relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea grow in strength and scope.

In August, for the first time, soldiers from the 2nd Royal Pacific Island Regiment integrated with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

They worked side-by-side in the largest, most complex and demanding exercise ever undertaken in Australia, conducting patrols and reconnaissance missions and hardening defensive positions.

Just a few weeks later, the soldiers involved switched from the dusty ranges of the Townsville Field Training Area to the tropical coast of New Guinea as part of Exercise Wantok Warrior, to train together in high-level warfighting.

Australian soldiers spoke highly of training with their brothers from the PNGDF.

And it was great to read an interview by Lieutenant Martin of the 2nd Royal Pacific Island Regiment saying that he learned a lot from his brothers and sisters in Australia.

These opportunities for our forces to exercise alongside each other in both Australia and Papua New Guinea are invaluable, and better enable our forces to support regional security and protect our common interests.

It would be unjust to talk about the close integration between our militaries without acknowledging Lieutenant Colonel Boniface Aruma, the newly appointed Deputy Commander of 3rd Brigade in Townsville and the first Papua New Guinea military officer to have been appointed to such a senior role in the history of the Australian Army.

This historic appointment is a practical demonstration of the close partnership between our two countries.

Today we build on the legacy of aviation cooperation between our countries that stretches all the way back to independence as we celebrate the official handover of two new PAC 750 aircraft from Australia to the PNGDF.

I understand the PAC 750 is highly valued by the PNGDF, both as a training platform for the next generation of pilots and for its ability to perform extremely short take-off and landings.

Making it well-suited to serve the remotest corners of the nation and support the PNGDF’s ability to respond to the needs of the Government.

The aircraft will also provide new opportunities for ADF and PNGDF personnel to work together, including through joint training and capacity building activities.

These PAC 750 aircraft will play a key role in delivering Papua New Guinea’s long-term goal of developing a sovereign aviation capability.

It is our pleasure to watch them take to the air, proudly crewed by PNGDF pilots, maintenance and loadmaster personnel.

As they are put to work, they will be supported through the Flights of Excellence Program, our joint partnership on aviation safety, maintenance and sustainment.

Just as important as having planes in the sky is having the right infrastructure on the ground to support the PNGDF to make the best use of this capability.

Australia is committed to supporting PNG’s security infrastructure priorities through the Defence Cooperation Program.

Including by refurbishing the Air Transport Wing Hangar.

This vital project will improve the building’s functionality to deliver the Flights of Excellence program; provide a secure and comfortable base from which the Air Element personnel can serve their nation; and deliver a location from which the PNGDF can grow their aviation capability.

Following a competitive tender process, I am pleased to announce this refurbishment will be delivered by Rhodes Projects.

The construction team have already commenced work and I’m told that completion is expected in middle of 2024.

The refurbished hangar will be an enduring legacy for the PNGDF and the people of Papua New Guinea.

I have been asked to pass on to the PNGDF Air Transport Wing the congratulations of your sister squadron - the RAAF’s No 35 Squadron - on the acquisition of these new aircraft. 

I thank all the officials from both the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and PNGDF for the hard work and cooperation involved in finalising the aircraft acquisition and the tender for this refurbishment.

I particularly acknowledge the Commanding Officer of the Air Transport Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Wii, and thank her for everything that has been achieved in our aviation partnership under her stewardship.

We can achieve great things when we work together, and is exactly the sort of cooperation that we will seek to encourage further under our proposed Bilateral Security Agreement.

Our two countries have a long shared history, and we look to an even greater future as we work together to navigate our shared challenges and safeguard our peace and security.

Thank you.

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