New Zealand Army Unimog truck parts for the Kingdom of Tonga’s military and PPE, including medical gowns, have been delivered to the island nation today.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H(NZ) Hercules delivered the freight in a contactless logistics stop, with the goods offloaded at Fua’amotu International Airport for Tongan authorities to distribute.

The PPE, including 3800 gowns, has been provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will be used by Tongan health workers and for those staffing managed isolation facilities in Tonga.

Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said it was the first time a Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft had landed in Tonga since COVID-19 border restrictions were imposed in March 

“Aircrew on our aircraft have robust procedures in place for preventing any potential spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“They have now carried out numerous contactless logistics stops, including when delivering aid to Pacific nations following Tropical Cyclone Harold earlier this year. 

Defence Adviser to Tonga Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Bowden said the Unimog parts would be used to keep five Unimog trucks in the heavy vehicle fleet of His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) operational.

“As Tonga enters the cyclone season it’s essential they have their heavy vehicles fully operational in case they need to get supplies and support in to remote areas in a bad weather event.

“The New Zealand Defence Force has a close partnership with HMAF. Providing the Unimog parts is a practical way we can demonstrate this and support important real-time capabilities,” he said.

One NZ Army Unimog truck was stripped down to parts for the shipment, which also includes other Unimog parts.

In September, the Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Manawanui carried out a contactless logistics stop in Tonga. A container of goods was lifted from the ship to shore using an offshore crane and no personnel went ashore.

Lieutenant Colonel Bowden said both visits had required diplomatic clearances from Tongan authorities and coordination with the New Zealand High Commission to meet Tonga’s strict COVID-19 regulations.

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