PICTURES: Australia puts last Caribou out to pasture

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The Royal Australian Air Force has retired its last DHC-4 Caribou light tactical transports, bringing to an end a service history spanning 45 years.

Operations with the Vietnam War-era type, which was acquired as a replacement for the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, came to an end on 26 November. Australia received a total of 29 Caribous between 1964 and 1971, and still had 13 in use before the retirement.

With a replacement capability to be ordered through Australia's Project Air 8000 Phase Two programme, the RAAF's 38 Sqn has an interim step taken ownership of three Beechcraft King Air 350s previously operated by the army's 173 Air Surveillance Sqn. These were accepted during a 24 November ceremony at Townsville, Queensland, with another five leased examples to follow by mid-2010.

royal australian air force dhc-4 caribou australian dod 
© Australian DoD

"The new fleet can provide a degree of efficiency and reliability which we have struggled to achieve with our fleet of ageing Caribous," says chief of air force Air Marshal Mark Binskin. The King Air also can "cruise at more than three times the altitude, twice the speed and twice the range", he adds.

 
© Australian Department of Defence
Previously army-operated King Air 350s will replace the Caribou for now

Two of the RAAF's retired transports have been transferred for display at the Air Force Museum at Point Cook, Victoria and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The transfer of the King Airs has also brought to an end more than 40 years of fixed-wing operations by the Australian army.