Airport Chief explains Military presence

New Zealand military aircraft are using Samoa as a base to conduct aerial surveillance of Pacific Island nations' exclusive economic zones.

The aircraft include a Royal New Zealand Airforce-owned Lockheed P-3 Orion, which is a four-engine turboprop maritime surveillance aircraft.

Samoa Airport Authority Chief Executive Officer, Silimana’i Ueta Solomona, said the aircrafts have been based at the Faleolo International Airport in the past few days and are conducting maritime surveillance.

He said there is a partnership between New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations for them to conduct surveillance of the region. 

“It is their regular maritime patrol in the Pacific, a partnership with us and the region. It is normal. It is done on a quarterly basis and it (patrol aircrafts) are usually based here or Fiji. It flies out to conduct their maritime patrol on the (exclusive) economic zones on the islands and returns here as its base."

An RNZAF Hercules also flew to Samoa, said Silimana’i, to pick up members of the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps who have been in Samoa over the last two weeks offering free dental services to the local population. 

An Australian plane also transited through Faleolo International Airport to refuel, he added. 

A member of the public, who only identified himself as Molesi when he called the Samoa Observer newsroom, said it was unusual seeing two military aircrafts operating in the country in recent days. 

“I don’t know who owns it but I wanted to know if we are running a military. I’d like to know who they are and what they are doing here," he said.

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