The Wrath of Gita

A wet welcome for a No 35 Squadron C-17A Globemaster to Tonga


Three C-17A Globemaster’s loaded with emergency essentials landed in Tonga almost immediately after the Category 4 storm hit, highlighting the capability of the RAAF’s ‘workhorse’ in humanitarian crises.

Tropical Cyclone Gita caused significant damage in the Pacific in February. Making landfall in Tonga during the night of Monday 12 February as a destructive category 4 storm, severe damage was caused to the capital, Nuku’alofa. Life-saving equipment was delivered from RAAF Amberley to the people of Tonga by C-17A Globemaster aircraft.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the Government of Tonga requested the help of the ADF with debris removal, water, sanitation and distribution of emergency supplies.
“Following a request from the Tongan Government, Australia has deployed $350,000 in life-saving equipment including emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits to assist over 2,000 people in need,” Ms Bishop said.

“The Australian Defence Force will conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, as part of the broader whole of government effort to support the Government of Tonga.”

The Australian government has also committed $155,000 to support debris clearance, aerial surveillance and food assistance for those who have been displaced in Samoa, who were also significantly impacted.

Three C-17 flights have so far delivered 24 pallets of aid from a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) supplies warehouse in Brisbane, including shelter tool kits, kitchen and hygiene kits.

An Australian Defence Force Support Response Team who arrived on the first C-17 flight into Tonga continue to work closely with DFAT and Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office conducting damage assessments.

Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne announced that the South West Pacific Assist operation officially drew to a close on the 26th of February.

The Australian Defence Force is well equipped for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations should Tonga or Samoa request additional support.

The Air Force operates a fleet of eight C-17A Globemasters from RAAF Base Amberley. With a payload of up to 70 tonnes, the C-17A is capable of flying both strategic missions across continents, as well as tactical airlift missions to airdrop cargo and paratroops.

In the past 15 months, the C-17A has flown airdrop missions to Antarctica, delivered aid relief to Vanuatu, and sustained deployed forces in the Middle East Region.