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No 38 Squadron

Formed in Richmond, New South Wales in September 1943, No 38 Squadron's Lockheed Hudsons transported supplies and passengers throughout Australia until their replacement with Dakotas eight months later. With these more capable aircraft, operations were extended into New Guinea and other localities in the South West Pacific. In the forward areas, hazardous low level supply dropping missions were conducted in support of Australian troops, and in this role, the popular Dakotas became known as the "Biscuit Bombers" to the grateful Aussie diggers.

Following the war, No 38 Squadron participated in the Japan courier run - a thrice-weekly service in support of the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. This arduous journey - a distance of some 20,000 kilometres - was extremely demanding and saw many crews being away from home for extended periods.

From late 1948, a large portion of No 38 Squadron's aircrew strength was attached to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Europe to fly British Dakotas during the Berlin Airlift. Two years later the Squadron deployed to Singapore for operations against Communist insurgents in Malaya, where it was again placed under the control of the RAF. Operations included supply drops, casualty evacuation and VIP transport, and extended as far afield as Ceylon, the Philippines, Korea and Japan.

In November 1950, half of No 38 Squadron's complement of Dakotas deployed to Korea and immediately began operations in support of United Nations forces.

After returning to Australia in 1952, the Dakotas soldiered on for many years, until the Caribou replaced them in 1964. These new aircraft - with their remarkable short field take off and landing capability - were soon detached to Port Moresby - where the extremely demanding flying conditions provided the Caribou crews with an excellent opportunity to hone their flying skills.

Another deployment commenced in March 1975, when a white painted Caribou was attached to a United Nations observer group monitoring the ceasefire between Pakistan and India.

With its easy access rear loading door and the ability to operate from unimproved landing strips, the Caribou has proved extremely useful during civil disasters. No 38 Squadron aircraft frequently assist in flood relief operations, including fodder drops to stranded cattle, as well as search and rescue missions and fisheries surveillance. On the military side, the Unit's operations encompass tactical supply missions, paratrooping and the delivery of stores into unprepared strips using the low altitude parachute extraction system.

In December 1992, No 38 Squadron moved to Amberley and where it continues to operate the venerable Caribou in support of the Australian Army. The Unit was the training unit for maintenance personnel and aircrews for both Nos 35 and 38 Squadrons until the amalgamation of the four separate Caribou operating facilities in 2000. The Unit continues to provide its own training required to maintain the Unit in an operational state. In addition, No 38 Squadron Detachment B operates Caribous from RAAF Base Townsville. Recent years have seen operational tasking under the banner of The United Nations, with 18 months of full tactical air services in East Timor and the continuing support to the Australian Federal Police in the Solomon Islands.

On 10 October 1999, elements of the Squadron, known as No 86 Wing Detachment C, deployed into East Timor under the auspices of the International Force East Timor or INTERFET as it became more commonly known. At its peak the Detachment operated four aircraft, this number was later reduced to two with the transition from INTERFET to the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor. Caribous eventually withdrew from East Timor in late February 2001.

In December 2009 the Caribou was replaced by the B350 King Air as an Interim Light Transport solution after 45 years of distinguished service in a wide variety of conflicts and humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. The King Air was selected to equip No 38 Squadron to conduct strategic flying operations, and provide a modern type for aircrews and maintenance personnel, and will serve until a suitable Battlefield Air Lifter can be procured.

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