Delivering ballots in Solomon Islands

Department of Defence

The cargo delivery capabilities of the Air Force have been put to the test, with a small and busy team supporting the Solomon Islands 2024 elections.

A 35 Squadron C-27J Spartan aircraft is delivering ballot papers and Solomon Islands Electoral Commission staff to outlying communities.

The remote airfields on tiny islands are often short and unsealed, so precise take-offs and landings are needed.

Regular heavy rain also makes flying and planning a challenge.

Flight Lieutenant Amy Sharpe, of 382 Squadron, said it was satisfying to support Australia’s neighbour during such an important time in its democratic process.

“The Spartan allows us to get to those more remote islands to be able to deliver the ballots while some other heavier aircraft wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Flight Lieutenant Sharpe.

The requirement to make multiple cargo deliveries each day requires careful fuel calculations and quick-loading and off-loading.

Each time a Spartan lands, the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission staff quickly collect the cargo so the aircraft can depart again, often in around 10 minutes.

Aircraftwoman Ainslie Lamb, of 23 Squadron, was impressed by the efficient operation.

“This is my first time being on a deployment like this so it’s all very interesting for myself,” Aircraftwoman Lamb said.

“It’s good to learn to see how other units work with each other, especially in a different country and being put through different challenges on the spot so I’m learning a lot being out here as well and making a lot of new friends.”

Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft are also regularly delivering cargo and personnel from Australia into Honiara International Airport.

Brigadier Giles Cornelia, Commander of Army’s 7th Brigade is overseeing the ADF contingent of around 300 ADF personnel deployed in support of the elections.

“We are proud to be supporting Solomon Islands to deliver a safe and secure election,” Brigadier Cornelia said.

Australian Defence Adviser for Solomon Islands Colonel Justin Bywater said the ADF had a proud history of working in partnership with Solomon Islands.

“It is credit to the close partnership between Solomon Islands Electoral Commission and the ADF, and many months of planning, which has resulted in such a highly successful logistics operation,” Colonel Bywater said.

Australian Federal Police, as well as police and military personnel from New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are also supporting the elections.

National and local elections will be conducted on April 17, 2024.

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