The Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra, her crew and embarked forces have arrived in Townsville following their deployment on Operation Tonga Assist 22. HMAS Canberra arrived in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa on 1 March 2022 to contribute to the Australian Government’s disaster relief and recovery mission following the devastating undersea volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami. During its mission, HMAS Canberra delivered humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) stores and relieved HMAS Adelaide, which arrived in Tonga on 26 January 2022.
Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, AO, CSC said the ADF’s contribution was part of Australia’s wider relief effort that included regional partners. “The crew of HMAS Canberra, embarked forces and helicopters, have been steadfast in their commitment to Tonga, carrying on from the good work of HMAS Adelaide and Supply,” LTGEN Bilton said. “The ADF personnel worked alongside our Pacific family, with Republic of Fiji Military Forces and French Armed Forces in New Caledonia personnel embarking on HMAS Canberra in support of recovery operations. HMAS Canberra also operated with Tonga’s Australian-gifted Guardian-class Patrol Boats VOEA Ngahau Koulaand Ngahau Siliva, conducting reconnaissance operations and support for the delivery of supplies. Years of close cooperation between Australia and Tonga in maritime security and disaster preparedness have made this seamless coordination possible.”
HMAS Canberra also supported Tonga’s COVID-19 response, delivering vaccines and medical teams to ‘Eua and Southern Ha’apai islands. They also transported people from Tongatapu to communities in the outer islands across the Ha’apai and Vava’u island groups. Operation Tonga Assist 22 delivered more than 417 tonnes of equipment, supplies, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief stores to Tonga. Defence assistance also included damage assessment and clean-up operations. This was supported by Australian Army personnel from the 7th and 17th Brigades, three CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 16th Aviation Brigade and a Royal Australian Navy MRH-90 helicopter from 808 Squadron.
Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules aircraft delivered supplies across 19 sustainment flights and conducted eight aerial surveillance flights to determine the extent of the damage. This surveillance will inform future HADR operations.