DHC-4 Caribou tactical transport aircraft

DHC-4 Caribou tactical transport aircraft

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The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) used DHC-4 Caribou aircraft for logistics and support operations in a number of countries, including the 2003 RAMSI deployment in Solomon Islands. In 2009, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced that the ageing aircraft would be retired from service.

Government sources


Honouring the Caribou’s service to Australia, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, Media Release, MIN34/0909 Mar 2009

“Air Force’s fleet of 13 Caribous will be retired from service by the end of 2009. Since the Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of its first of 29 Caribous in 1964, they have conducted light tactical transport duties throughout the South West Pacific and South East Asia. During 2009, Air Force will gradually retire the Caribous as they become due for expensive major maintenance….The Defence Materiel Organisation will manage the Caribou disposal plan which will determine the future of the other 11 aircraft. As an interim measure, tasks currently performed by Caribous will be covered by B300 King Airs and C-130 Hercules, ahead of a decision on a tactical airlift capability for RAAF through Project Air 8000 Phase 2.”


A busy and demanding role, Air Commodore Glen Steed, Defence Magazine, May 2006

“For over 40 years, the Caribou has provided versatile light-tactical transport capability to the ADF. The aircraft is capable of very short take-off and landings on unprepared runways and is still recognised as one of the most capable short-haul transport aircraft in the world. The worth of this unique aircraft was again highlighted with the recent deployment to the Solomon Islands in support of the Australian Federal Police.”


Air Force Caribous Return Home from Op Anode, Defence Media Release MSPA 129/04, 2 July 2004

“Six Royal Australian Air Force aircrew members from 38 Squadron will bring two Caribou aircraft home to Townsville after spending three months in the Solomon Islands as part of Operation Anode.  Two Caribous and crew are returning from a three-month deployment from the Solomon Islands. The Australian Government has decided to withdraw further Australian Defence Force elements from the Solomon Islands following continued progress in the restoration of law and order.

“The Royal Australian Air Force Caribou detachment deployed to Operation Anode consisted of approximately 30 personnel from 38SQN at RAAF Amberley and RAAF Townsville. In just under 12 months, the Caribous have flown over 1,300 hours, carried over 8,000 passengers and over 700,000 pounds of freight, which is a tribute to the hard work and support of 38SQN. The rest of the Caribou detachment based at Honiara, along with other Air Force support personnel are still to return home to Australia.”

Farewell to Solomons, Andrew Stackpool and Lt. Chantal Llora, Air Force News, 2004

The drawdown of Air Force elements involved in Operation Anode is all but complete – coming soon after the first anniversary of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). All but four No. 395 Expeditionary Combat Support Wing personnel have returned to Australia. The bulk of personnel returned on July 28, followed by the Air Load Team on August 4. The four who remain in the Solomon Islands are in the Force Extraction Team assisting with preparing and cleaning equipment for its return. They are expected home in mid-August. Since the first personnel and two Caribou aircraft from No. 38 Squadron deployed in July last year, about 120 combat support personnel deployed to the area in four rotations. They were based at Henderson Airfield, near Honiara, in conditions that initially were very basic.”

Caribou aircraft at Honiara International Airport, Australian War Memorial (AWM).

“In the background can be seen the tail of a DHC-4 Caribou tactical transport aircraft. Two Caribous belonging to 38 Squadron, RAAF, were deployed to the Solomon Islands to provide transport for troops and equipment around the islands: their ability to land on short grass runways was invaluable, as Honiara airport had the only sealed runway in the country.”

Caribou aircraft at Honiara International Airport, Australian War Memorial (AWM) photograph

“To the right of the runway are two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Caribou transport aircraft, also used to transport supplies and personnel. The poor condition of many Solomon Islands airfields made the Caribou’s ability to take off and land on short unprepared runways invaluable.”