A US Navy EP-3C Orion has joined the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) to provide support for the monitoring of Indonesian Defence Force and pro-Jakarta militia communications, according to US defence officials in Australia.

The aircraft has been operating out of Royal Australian Air Force bases in northern Australia since 21 September and is supported by a 40-person signals intelligence analysis team. US officials say that it is normally based in Japan.

The USA has also begun deployment of airborne tankers to support air operations within East Timor by INTERFET forces. A Marine Corps Lockheed Martin KC-130 joined the operation on 20 September. Several USAF KC-135s are expected to be deployed to carry fuel into Dili and Baucau airports from eastern Australia and possibly Singapore.

The Baucau airhead was secured in an operation on 22 September that used 12 Australian Army Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters operating from Dili.

The first 72h of INTERFET deployment, launched on 20 September, saw the Dili-Darwin airbridge transport 2,500 military personnel in 85 return C-130 flights launched from Darwin and Tindal.

The airbridge is expected to sustain an average of 24 flights a day for the foreseeable future. INTERFET has also extended the airbridge to include a direct link between Dili and the RAAF base at Townsville on the Pacific seaboard of Northern Queensland.

Source: Flight International