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Southern Skies Host RNZAF Exercise SKYTRAIN

Exercise SKYTRAIN, 2024 [© New Zealand Defence Force]

Southern landscapes have provided crucial training grounds for the RNZAF during a nine-day air drop exercise aimed at honing skills for the real thing.

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Press Release, Wellington, 17 April 2024: A C-130 Hercules from RNZAF No.40 Squadron was a regular sight in Central Otago and Lake Districts skies recently as the New Zealand Defence Force carried out Exercise SKYTRAIN, focussing on tactical low-level flying and delivering and picking up loads in scenarios where areas could be under threat. The flying techniques practised are essential in keeping RNZAF aircrews’ flying currency up-to-date, as well as the skills used on deployed operations.

Exercise SKYTRAIN, 2024 [© New Zealand Defence Force]

The Hercules and RNZAF personnel from Bases Auckland, Ohakea and Woodbourne deployed to Wānaka Airport, alongside personnel from the New Zealand Army. RNZAF ground trades, including security forces, air movements, aircraft and safety and surface technicians, rescue fire service, aviation fuel, logistics, intelligence and communication and information systems specialists, were all involved.

Exercise SKYTRAIN, 2024 [© New Zealand Defence Force]

“An important part of our training is being able to operate effectively and successfully away from our home base,” said Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Brad Scott.

“So every year we run a SKYTRAIN exercise in New Zealand to test and build our deployment resilience.

“It exercises our entire deployed system, including our support elements, which are critical for airborne operations,” he said.

The training and experience achieved through this exercise were directly relatable to real-world scenarios, Wing Commander Scott said. “This is to support such things as the Cyclone Gabrielle response or deployment on US Air Force-led Operation CHRISTMAS DROP out of Guam, where we deliver pallet loads of goods via a C-130 to people living on remote islands and atolls in the Pacific.”

Exercise SKYTRAIN, 2024 [© New Zealand Defence Force]

Exercise SKYTRAIN encompassed much of Central Otago into the Mackenzie Country, with some flying sorties going as far afield as Hokitika, Timaru and Invercargill. Air drop sorties were focussed on three drop zones in the Ida Valley and Maniatoto Valley near Ranfurly. Other missions saw the aircraft land and load or unload personnel or equipment with engines running.

“The terrain around Wānaka is irreplaceable for low-level flying techniques and it’s great to exercise there and engage with the local community while supporting local businesses,” Wing Commander Scott said.

Exercise SKYTRAIN, 2024 [© New Zealand Defence Force: Mark Weakley]

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