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Papua New Guinea - Air Operations Element

The air force branch of the PNGDF aspires to operate a small number of light aircraft and rotary wing assets in support of army operations. The role of the Air Transport Wing is to support army operations with transport, air re-supply and medical evacuation capabilities.

Based in Port Moresby, the air force branch consists of an Air Transport Squadron with limited assets available due to questionable serviceability and no airworthiness system. Wet-leased 2 x B212 helos are the main capability, as facilitated through the DCP. Like the PNGDF in general the air force suffers from chronic equipment shortages and underfunding, but probably even more so than the other two branches.

PNG shares a 720km land boundary with the Republic of Indonesia that traverses a variety of terrain, ranging from swampy coastal plain in the north and south to rugged mountain ranges in the centre. The PNGDF should provide a frontline response to minor territorial incursions, resource poaching, acts of terrorism, drug running, illegal arms imports, and other infringements of sovereignty that are beyond the capacity of the police and border authorities. The remoteness of the location necessitates a well coordinated inter-agency response but also the need for armed response and capabilities unique to the Defence Force.

A small, versatile, mobile element capable of protecting other Government agency personnel and also projecting a Defence presence along the border is essential. Typical duties would be to secure crossing points, mount and conduct patrols and provide ready reaction forces, resupply and CASEVAC, ideally with modest (organic) rotary wing support. Such duties will require troops to deploy from barrack areas to forward operating bases to conduct operations and provide support. The elements operating on the border should be supported by sufficiently robust intelligence, effective command and control systems, tactical air mobility, and logistic support and personnel services to sustaining operations for several months at a time.

The maintenance and restoration of public order is primarily a constitutional responsibility of the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC). However, given PNGs socio-economic circumstances and the difficulty faced by the RPNGC in protecting critical infrastructure in remote areas, there remains special call-out contingencies that Defence may need to respond to when requested by Government.

As any perceived potential breakdown of public order could adversely affect PNGs social and economic well-being, the PNGDF should be resourced to sustain a credible capacity to perform critical infrastructure protection in remote locations and assist the RPNGC with the restoration of public order.

The PNGDF therefore requires tactical air lift capability to enable the rapid deployment and sustainment forces deployed in direct support of the constabulary to assist with the preservation of public order. The Military Response Option (MRO) also includes the need to respond to in extremis events (such as terrorist incidents). The PNGDFs ability to fulfil these duties in complex or remote terrain should be largely derived from existing military skill sets and equipment rather than new force structure considerations. A high degree of cooperation with PNGs external security partners needs to be established to ensure national and regional security interests can be managed effectively during potential times of crisis.

Australian DCP in-line officers and attached advisers provide support to the development and implementation of PNG Defence policy and doctrine. This assists PNG Defence to improve the basis upon which it trains and operates. In support of the PNG Defence Reform Program Phase Two, the DCP funds the purchase and maintenance of equipment for the PNGDF to use in border surveillance activities, augmenting the level of support provided by the PNG Government. In addition, this project incorporates the DCP contracted support to the PNGDF Air Transport Wing, including the provision of three helicopters for a period of two years commencing April 2012.

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