PUMA pilot Captain Youri Sicard is welcomed by WOWM Richards on-board HMNZS CANTERBURY 
8 April 2011
HMNZS CANTERBURY has embarked a French Army of New Caledonia (FANC) PUMA helicopter and personnel while anchored in Noumea as the US-led exercise Pacific Partnership gets underway.
The French Army of New Caledonia (FANC) will work closely with NZ Defence Force personnel and those from a number of nations as part of Pacific Partnership, a dedicated humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise throughout the Pacific which will increase interoperability and deliver medical, dental, veterinary and engineering services.
Brigadier Tramond, Joint Commodore of New Caledonia Defence Force, adds, “We have a good connection with the Kiwis and are accustomed to working together. We have an excellent relationship on both an operational level and on a personal level.”
Commanding Officer of HMNZS CANTERBURY, Commander Jim Gilmour, says the PUMA is crucial to the exercise and means that supplies can be speedily delivered ashore. The first time a PUMA was uploaded to the ship was for the disaster relief exercise, Tropic Twilight, last year and now FANC will join NZ Defence personnel in the exercise by using HMNZS CANTERBURY as a base for humanitarian activities.
FANC PUMA pilot, Captain Youri Sicard, notes that the capabilities of the PUMA are well suited to exercises like Pacific Partnership. “The PUMA can transfer up to twelve personnel per trip and can carry up to two tonnes of material ashore.”
The French Air Force currently operates a fleet of 874 active aircraft including; fighters, transport aircraft, passenger transport and helicopters. The air mobility force includes 80 helicopters like the PUMA.
Noumea is the first stop for HMNZS CANTERBURY before heading to the small island of Niuatoputonga in the island nation of Tonga.
This is the first time the NZ Defence Force has been involved in Pacific Partnership on such a large scale, with the participation of HMNZS CANTERBURY, her ship’s company and up to 150 NZ Defence personnel.
Other nations and personnel participating in this year’s exercise include a mix of about 600 military, interagency and non-governmental organisational medical professionals and engineers hailing from the US, Australia, Canada, France, Singapore and Spain.
New Zealand’s contribution to Pacific Partnership will focus on the nations of Tonga and Vanuatu, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade supporting the development work with approximately $500,000 of funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme.
Contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig, Defence Communications Group, 021 806 926.
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