Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

Australian and New Zealand Chiefs of Air Force visit PNG

Over the week of 23-26 April 2024, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Chief of Air Force (CAF) Air Marshal Robert Chipman and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) CAF Air Vice Marshal Darryn Webb visited Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG).


The Chiefs of Air Force met with PNG Ministers, senior government officials, officers from the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) and leaders in the civil aviation sector to understand the PNG’s aviation ambitions and identify opportunities to build on the already close defence partnerships shared by Australia, New Zealand and PNG Defence Forces.


“When we talk about finding Pacific solutions to Pacific security challenges, us travelling together to PNG is a way of demonstrating how serious we are about that,” Air Marshal Chipman said.


“The long-standing relationship between the PNGDF and RNZAF is very important to us,” Air Vice Marshal Webb said.


“We don’t do things in the region alone, we do things absolutely together all of the time, in our force preparedness and responsiveness. We come with a common voice; we see the challenges in the region in the same way.”


The Acting Chief of the PNGDF Commodore Philip Polewara welcomed the Chiefs of Air Force to Murray Barracks where they held meetings in the Kumul Leadership Center, built by the NZDF and opened in 2022.


Commodore Polewara also joined the Chiefs to commemorate ANZAC Day, attending a dawn service at Bomana War Cemetery on 25 April 2024.


“You trusted our forefathers and that trust built on mutual respect and honesty continues today,” Commodore Polewara said.


“Our partnership was forged by the Papua New Guineans, Australians and New Zealanders who fought together, but we must not live in the past. Their legacy is our inspiration.”


The Defence partnership between the three nations is based on close historical ties, including World War II, intertwined security interests in the Pacific, and mutual interest in strengthening PNG’s sovereignty and defence capability.


The visit also included tours of the PNGDF Air Transport Wing, where the Australian Defence Cooperation Program is funding a major refurbishment to modernize the aircraft hangar and office space for a growing Air Element. 


“Investing in defence and our defence capability is an investment in our sovereignty; working together gives us a shared understanding, and an opportunity to share our perspectives” Air Marshal Chipman said.


During the visit, Air Marshal Chipman had the opportunity to reunite with a fellow 2016 graduate of Defence and Strategic Studies Course (DSSC) Chief of Force Preparation Colonel Craig Solomon from the PNGDF.


“We have a great connection already, it’s easier for me to have a personable relationship with Air Marshal Chipman from our time at DSSC together,” Colonel Solomon said.


“This is really important for our bilateral relationship; for the air element, our level of engagement has increased, especially around developing air culture and safety.”


RAAF Warrant Officer of the Air Force Ralph Clifton and his RNZAF counterpart Kerry Williams also attended this visit engaging with the PNG Force Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Donald Yalom and non-commissioned officers from the PNGDF.

Chief of Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, AO, CSC (centre left) and Chief of Royal New Zealand Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Darryn Webb, MNZM (centre right) along with Papua New Guinea's Acting Chief of Defence Force, Commodore Philip Polewara, DMS, MBE (right) meet with the Papua New Guinea Defence Minister, The Honourable Dr. Billy Joseph, PhD, MP (centre) and Papua New Guinea Defence Secretary, Secretary Hari John Akipe in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

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