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Chinooks to deploy to Afghanistan.
Media contacts Sascha Meldrum (Senator Hill) 08 8237 7920 0409 034 241
Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664
MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate
Tuesday 10 January, 2006 001/2006
CHINOOKS TO DEPLOY TO AFGHANISTAN
An Australian Defence Force element made up of two Chinook helicopters and about 110 personnel will soon be deployed to Afghanistan as part of Australia’s continuing commitment to the fight against terrorism, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.
Senator Hill said the helicopter capability will provide additional aero-medical evacuation and air mobility support to Australia’s Special Forces Task Group in conjunction with support from Coalition forces.
The Chinook team will form part of the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan and will be in addition to 190 personnel currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Special Forces Task Group.
The helicopters are currently undergoing a $25 million upgrade to ensure they are combat ready to be deployed in February. They are expected to be fully operational by late March and will remain in Afghanistan for the balance of the Special Forces’ deployment that will conclude in September.
Senator Hill said that in the event of an Australian Provincial Reconstruction Team being deployed, the aircraft deployment could be extended until late November.
The Government has given in-principle agreement to send an Australian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to Afghanistan this year. The exact role and composition of Australia’s PRT has not yet been decided as NATO is still
determining the details of phase three of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expansion into Southern Afghanistan.
The Chinooks will be drawn from the aviation element made up of six Chinooks currently based in Townsville, Queensland. The aircraft are used for transporting troops, heavy lift of equipment and supplies and medical evacuation.
The $25 million upgrade is part of a rapid acquisition project to provide the aircraft with enhanced Electronic Warfare Self Protection equipment, additional crew and passenger protection and advanced communications.
“This equipment will improve the safety and survivability of the aircraft, as well as their ability to work closely with Coalition forces,” Senator Hill said.
“There is a real need for rotary transport capabilities in Afghanistan and I am pleased that Australia is now able to make a further contribution to help build a stable and secure Afghanistan and effectively combat threats of terrorism.
“Afghanistan has made significant progress since its liberation from the Taliban and it is important that the international community continues to work together with the Afghan Government to ensure progress continues.”
“The Chinooks will be equipped with an enhanced level of ballistic protection against direct fire weapons, such as small arms fire, as well as advanced communications equipment to operate with Coalition partners. They will also be fitted out for aero-medical evacuation and have improved gun mounts and will be provided with increased situational awareness to operate in demanding flying environments.
“This upgrade will ensure they are equipped with the necessary protection and latest technology to be safely deployed to Afghanistan,” Senator Hill said.
Pool vision of Chinook operations will be fed to TV Networks at Parliament House at 1200 hours Tuesday 10 January 2006.