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Aussie air force gets final Beechcraft

July 9, 2010 at 10:21 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, July 9 (UPI) -- Australia's air force took delivery of an eighth Beechcraft King Air 350 light transport plane as an interim replacement for the recently phased out Caribou.

The new plane is one of five new planes that have been handed over this year to No. 38 Squadron based at Royal Australian Air Force Townsville, Minister for Defense Materiel and Science Greg Combet said.

Three of the eight King Airs were transferred in November 2009, at the start of a leasing contract with Hawker Pacific, from the army's No. 173 Air Surveillance Squadron to No. 38 Squadron.

Hawker Pacific is an independent Australia-based aircraft leaser and aviation support services company. Its clients are mostly in the Australasia, Pacific and Middle East regions.

Hawker Pacific signed the contract with the Defense Material Organization last November to supply and support planes as short-term replacements for the aging Caribou tactical transport fleet of the RAAF Air Lift Group.

The air force had operated the de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou since 1964. But it announced in December that it had decommissioned the last 13 Caribou and was in the process of selling some of the aircraft.

Australia's Department of Defense said at the time it "expects that up to two Caribou aircraft will be tendered with the intention that they be retained in Australia in flying condition as items of military heritage."

The contract with Hawker Pacific provides for aircraft lease and logistics support including maintenance and configuration management as well as management of spares and components. Hawker Pacific technicians work beside squadron technicians and pilots to provide a vital capability to the Austrian Defense Force.

The contract also called for Hawker Pacific to do major modifications to convert the civilian aircraft to the client's military role and for disposal of the aircraft after contract expiry.

"No. 38 Squadron's success with the King Air is the result of a one-team defense-industry approach at RAAF Base Townsville, in which air force personnel are working closely with Hawker Pacific staff," Combet said.

"The King Air provides a flexible means of achieving Australian Defense Force tasks across the region. It delivers the opportunity for air force to train new pilots and technicians on an aircraft with modern avionics and turboprop engines, and then transition these personnel to bigger and more complex platforms, such as the C-130J, C-17, Wedgetail, and soon, the KC-30A."

No. 38 Squadron used it first King Airs on missions to New Zealand and Malaysia, as well as across Australia.

The Beechcraft King Air family is part of a line of twin-turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corp., now the Beechcraft Division of Hawker Beechcraft. The series is based on a 169 design and has been in production since 1974, making it one of the longest production runs of any civilian turboprop in its class.

As with some of the old Caribou, the Department of Defense said it wants to keep some of the army's Iroquois helicopters to be shown as "national treasures."

Combet said a squadron of 11 Iroquois will soon be dispatched to towns across the nation including four to remain within Townsville to be made into local tourist attractions.

"Townsville and the other locations selected have had an association with the Iroquois helicopter for a very long time. It's only fitting then that these helicopters come to rest among these communities," Combet said.

"One Iroquois helicopter will be kept for permanent display outside Townsville's RAAF Base, where we expect it to attract military enthusiasts and other visitors. Iroquois helicopters served Australia during the Vietnam War, on deployments to Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, and provided assistance to people who were affected by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia."

Iroquois helicopters will also become tourist attractions in Point Cook in Victoria, Darwin, Holsworthy, Oakey, Enoggera, Bandiana and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Another five Iroquois helicopters will be kept by the Australian Defense Force as training aids. Two will be offered for sale to national returned service organizations.

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