A Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules transport aircraft from RAF Brize Norton based 47 Squadron has conducted a series of resupply flights for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The supplies were air dropped by parachute.
Over a ten-day period 77 containers, weighing 63.1 Tonnes of essential supplies, have been delivered to the BAS forward base at Sky Blu. The supplies included petrol, aviation fuel, rations and aircraft spares.
The Sky Blu base is a BAS forward operating station located at latitude 75 degrees South in southern Palmer Land, Antarctica. The name of the base comes from the area of blue ice that surrounds it which is formed from extremely hard and dense ice that has lost the air bubbles that normally cloud the ice.
The 47 Squadron aircraft has been flying from the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, one of the principle support locations used by the international community to support their Antarctic activities. The RAF mission was initially delayed by strong winds during the planned first week of flights, however, as the weather improved, the detachment was able to catch up and finished the resupply on time.
The RAF detachment is commanded by one of the 47 Squadron pilots who said:
“We are pleased to have successfully completed the full quota of supplies requested by BAS during Ex Austral Endurance. The tenacity and flexibility of our teams from 47 Squadron RAF and 47 (Air Despatch) Squadron Royal Logistic Corps made up for the initial delay.”
The RAF delivery of supplies for the BAS simplifies the logistical chain for the UK scientific mission in the region for the rest of the season. The mission also enables the RAF to hone the crews' skills in long-range stores insertion over a sustained period, a task for which 47 Squadron may be called upon to undertake anytime, anywhere in support of UK humanitarian or military operations.
The high latitude and remote environment pose extra challenges which are replicated in very few parts of the planet.