8 February 2017
An Aucklander who joined the Air Force to fulfil a childhood dream to fly and go places will be leading the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) operations in the
Middle East to counter piracy and people and drug smuggling.
Wing Commander Daniel Hunt said the 55-member contingent he was leading aimed “to represent New Zealand in a positive light and provide a meaningful contribution to security in the Middle East”.
“We were valued because of our high mission success rate in 2015 and the unique capabilities of our Orion surveillance aircraft, so we will be striving to achieve that again,” Wing Commander Hunt said.
The NZDF is sending an Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft and a supporting detachment to the Middle East this week to work as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) over the next 12 months. The CMF is a 31-nation naval partnership that seeks to defeat terrorism and prevent piracy and people and drug trafficking.
The last NZDF Orion mission to support the CMF conducted 174 maritime surveillance flights involving about 1400 flying hours over 16 months to December 2015. It also helped the CMF locate and intercept vessels attempting to smuggle drugs worth nearly NZ$500 million.
Wing Commander Hunt said the contingent was “upbeat and busy” while preparing for their deployment, which would involve helping patrol 3.2 million square miles of international water around the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
“Working with other navies and air forces is always a bonus. It allows you to benchmark your performance and provides opportunities to learn from each other. Invariably we measure up pretty well and my expectation is that it will be no different this time,” he said.
“The challenges will probably come from operating in a hot and dry environment. Temperature is less of an issue when you are airborne but before and after the flights the heat poses challenges to those working in and around the aircraft.”
Wing Commander Hunt, the Commanding Officer of the Air Force’s No.5 Squadron until early this year, is an experienced hand who has done three tours in the Middle East. He has also been deployed to Southeast Asia, South Pacific, Europe and the Caribbean.
A former student of Waiuku College, Wing Commander graduated at the top of his class when he joined the Air Force as a navigator in 1995. He trained at the Royal Australian Air Force School of Air Navigation and the United States National Test Pilot School. He completed a bachelor’s degree in education at Massey University and a diploma in teaching from Auckland University before enlisting in the Air Force.