The 1968 generation was flying the Transall

The 1968 generation was flying the Transall

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With the Pitch Black 2024 exercise, the German Air Force once again shows its colors in the Indo-Pacific region. However, this region of the world is not new to the military service branch. The first transport flights to Asia were already conducted in the 1960s. Many still remember the air bridge after the tsunami in 2004 and the UNUnited Nations (United Nations) mission in East Timor in 1999.

A German soldier marshals a Transall C-160.

A German soldier of the UNUnited Nations (United Nations) MedEvacMedical Evacuation (Medical Evacuation) mission marshals a Transall C-160 to an appropriate parking position at the RAAF airbase in Darwin/Australia. Shortly before that, the aircraft had flown wounded Australian …


1968/69 Iran, Japan, Australia

In September 1968, a delivery of aid supplies after an earthquake in Iran became the first deployment of a German Air Force Transall aircraft outside Germany. In the same month, a Transall took off for a flight to Australia to transport a component of the Europa rocket to the test site in Woomera, Australia. In the following year, a Transall crew brought another one of these seven-ton rocket stages to the Australian desert. Also in September 1968, a Transall of 63 Air Transport Wing (ATW) flew to Japan for the International Aerospace Exhibition.

1970 East Pakistan

Following a cyclone in East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh), Boeing 707 transport aircraft of the Special Air Mission Wing, 15 Transall aircraft of 63 ATW (Air Transport Wing), and five helicopters of 64 Helicopter Transport Wing (HTW) supported the international aid in November and December 1970.

1971 Australia, India, Pakistan

At the beginning of December 1971, three Transall aircraft of 63 ATW (Air Transport Wing) brought spare parts for the Leopard tank to Australia where the tank was undergoing tests and evaluation. During the war between India and Pakistan for the independence of Bangladesh, two 63 ATW (Air Transport Wing) Transall aircraft flew out a total of 350 Germans from Karachi. Furthermore, the Air Force conducted aid flights for refugees in West Bengal.

1991 Cambodia

Between 1991 and 1993, the MedEvacMedical Evacuation (Medical Evacuation) Airbus 310 supported the UNUnited Nations (United Nations) mission due to the civil war in Cambodia by conducting numerous transport flights with the involvement of 150 Bundeswehr medical soldiers.

1999 East Timor

In autumn 1999, two MedEvacMedical Evacuation (Medical Evacuation) C-160 Transall aircraft and 74 German Air Force soldiers set course for East Timor. Their mission: the evacuation of sick and wounded persons from the crisis-ridden country to Darwin in North Australia. This time, 63 ATW (Air Transport Wing) in Hohn and 62 ATW (Air Transport Wing) in Wunstorf were involved in the UNUnited Nations (United Nations) mission. During the deployment – which lasted until the beginning of 2000 –, the Air Force flew 47 evacuation missions, in which 230 patients from 13 nations were transported and provided with medical care.

2004 The tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia

On Christmas 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean devastated large coastal areas in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, killing more than 200,000 people. The transport of injured German citizens from the disaster area back to Germany via an air bridge became one of the largest deployments for the MedEvacMedical Evacuation (Medical Evacuation) Airbus 310.

2005/06 Pakistan

Following an earthquake in Pakistan, the Bundeswehr participated in a NATO air bridge.

2013 Strategic partnership with Australia

In 2013, Australia and Germany entered into a strategic partnership, which was further consolidated in 2021. The pillars of this partnership comprise, among other things, bilateral joint foreign and security policy consultations at ministerial level.

2020 The German Federal Government’s guidelines on the Indo-Pacific Region

A stronger commitment of the Bundeswehr in the region serves the aim of intensifying international cooperation, providing local support, and maintaining the ruled-based system of shared values. This formed the context of the seven-month training cruise and demonstration of presence of the frigate “Bayern” in the Pacific Ocean in 2021/22, and the participation of Bundeswehr paratroopers in the Talisman Sabre military exercise in Australia in 2023.

Three German Eurofighters are flying over Australia together.

The German Eurofighters during the Pitch Black 2022 exercise above the Australian landmarks of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig

2022 Rapid Pacific and Pitch Black

In mid-August 2022, six Eurofighters took off in Neuburg an der Donau for the Rapid Pacific exercise. Their mission was to deploy to Singapore within 24 hours, which was eventually accomplished within 21 hours. All in all, the project involved some 250 soldiers and was supported by four A400M transport aircraft and three A330 aircraft of the MRTTMulti Role Tanker Transport (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) unit in Eindhoven to provide air-to-air refueling to the combat aircraft.  Following this, the Air Force continued to Australia where, for the first time, the crews would participate in the Pitch Black (air combat) and Kakadu 2022 (naval warfare) multinational exercises conducted by the Australian armed forces in the north of the continent in August and September. Prior to redeployment to Germany in October, the fleet split up to take part in combined flight operations with the Singapore Air Force and pay short visits to Japan and South Korea for common exercises.

2023 The Transall as a fire fighter for the ridgeback

In the summer of 2023, Wieland Aviation purchased the last three Transall C-160 aircraft of the German Air Force. In Australia, the aircraft will follow a new destiny: fighting bush fires.

by Rüdiger Franz