Humanitarian aid and equipment prepared for loading onto an aircraft

Recent History of Air Force Humanitarian Assistance


Tropical Cyclone Winston

Up to 1000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel provided humanitarian support and undertook disaster relief work following Tropical Cyclone Winston. They delivered critical aid supplies to the people of Fiji and helped 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 dispatches between Australia and Fiji.

The combined operation:

  • delivered over 114 tonnes of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and 140 tonnes of aid including food, shelter kits, tents, construction materials and humanitarian supplies;
  • provided power to four villages and water facilities to 700 people;
  • constructed a large number of temporary shelters;
  • made emergency repairs to nine schools, three medical centres, five community centres and four churches; and
  • conducted approximately 340 assessments of infrastructure by Australian Army Engineers with Fijian civilian and military experts.


Nepal Earthquake

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, 340,517lbs of cargo and 322 passengers were transported - including an Air Force Aero-Medical Evacuation team, specialist Defence logistic staff and Australian and foreign national evacuees.

Cyclone Pam

The people of Vanuatu were still trying to comprehend the devastation left in the wake of Cyclone Pam, when the first Air Force aircraft arrived with relief and medical supplies, ADF and medical personnel.

Two AP-3C Orions deployed to Honiara in the Solomon Islands, supported by two KA-350 King Airs, to survey the damage and provide initial assessments. Two C-17A Globemasters and a C-130J Hercules flew constant 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 included hygiene kits, blankets, shelter kits, insect nets, water storage buckets and water purification tablets.


South Sudan

Air Force delivered 200 tonnes of cargo and equipment to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) after an outbreak of violence.

From 3-12 January, Air Force personnel conducted eight C-17A Globemaster flights and two C-130J Hercules flights, delivering strategic airlift support and transporting UN personnel.


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 to support 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 Air Force C-17A Globemaster crews, operating from Eindhoven in the Netherlands, led the ADF contribution. Additional Air Force aircraft flew support missions between Australia and the Netherlands. 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 backup needed to carry out this difficult task in a complex security environment.

Northern Iraq

An Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft completed the most complex operational humanitarian airdrop 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 airdrop was the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999.


Philippines Typhoon

Following a typhoon in the Philippines, C-130J Hercules aircraft delivered Australian Medical Assistance Team personnel and equipment to Tacloban during Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST.

Air Force aircraft transported over 280 tonnes of humanitarian and disaster relief cargo, and C-130J Hercules flights evacuated over 1100 internally displaced people from Tacloban to Mactan and Guiuan Air Fields. They also transported over 300 people into Tacloban to assist with relief efforts, including:

NSW Bushfires

RAAF Base Glenbrook personnel provided assistance with refueling firefighting aircraft, emergency accommodation and meals for firefighters, clean-up, and recovery during Operation NSW Bushfire Assist.

Tasmanian Bushfires

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.

Bundaberg Flood

C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft evacuated 90 patients from Bundaberg Hospital, which was being threatened by rising floodwaters.


Tropical Cyclone Evan

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, 237,820 pounds of cargo was delivered by C-17A Globemaster and 78,652 pounds was delivered by C-130J Hercules.

Gippsland Floods

RAAF Base East Sale personnel assisted with sand-bagging during the Gippsland floods in June 2012.

Operation Queensland Flood Assist

Air Force’s C-130J Hercules evacuated 32 senior citizens from the St George Flood Zone during Operation Queensland Flood Assist in February 2012.


Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

C-17A Globemaster transported urban search and rescue workers from Australia to Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It also 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.

Christchurch Earthquake

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.

Cyclone Yasi

Multiple relief flights were conducted in northern Queensland during Cyclone Yasi in February 2011 with C-17A Globemasters and C-130J Hercules aircraft.

Activities included the aero-medical evacuation of 173 hospital patients from Cairns 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, 322 tonnes of cargo airlifted (including 200 tonnes of delivered groceries) and damage surveillance flights flown by AP-3C Orion.

Queensland Floods

Relief was provided for flood-affected communities in Queensland and Victoria in 2011. This included transporting more than 450 tonnes of cargo and more than 200 passengers using C-17A GlobemastersC-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

  • Operation Pakistan Assist I and II during 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 after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Sumatra, which saw Air Force C-130H, C-130J and Boeing 707 aircraft deliver Defence personnel and aid.
  • Aero-medical evacuation flights following Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005.