No. 37 Squadron RAAF

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No. 37 Squadron RAAF
No. 37 Squadron's crest
Active July 1943 – February 1948
February 1966 – current
Allegiance Australia
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Air transport
Part of No. 84 Wing
Garrison/HQ RAAF Base Richmond
Motto Foremost
Engagements World War II
Vietnam War
Gulf War
East Timor
Gulf War
Military intervention against ISIS
Aircraft flown
Transport C-60 Lodestar (1943–45)
C-47 Dakota (1945–48)
C-130E Hercules (1966–1999)
C-130H Hercules (2006–2012)
C-130J Super Hercules II (1999–current)

No. 37 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airlift squadron. Formed in July 1943 at RAAF Station Laverton, Victoria, it currently operates C-130J Hercules aircraft from RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales. The unit saw active service flying C-60 Lodestars and C-47 Dakotas in World War II, before being disbanded in 1948. It reformed at Richmond in 1966 with C-130E Hercules, and operated flights between Australia and South-East Asia during the Vietnam War. The squadron has since been heavily involved in disaster relief in Australia and the region, as well as peacekeeping missions in the Pacific and the Middle East. It converted to the C-130J in 1999, and between 2006 and 2012 also operated C-130Hs transferred from No. 36 Squadron. Its motto is "Foremost".[1]


Lockheed Lodestar of No. 37 Squadron at Merauke, Dutch New Guinea, December 1944

No. 37 Squadron was established in July 1943 at RAAF Station Laverton, Victoria. It was first equipped with twin-engined Lockheed C-60 Lodestar transports and operated out of Parafield, South Australia, and Morotai in the Dutch East Indies. Towards the end of World War II, it re-equipped with Douglas C-47 Dakota twin-engined transports.[2][3] By May 1945, No. 37 Squadron was based in Essendon, Victoria. Following the end of hostilities, it was engaged in transporting former prisoners of war from Singapore to Australia, and later in conveying equipment to Japan for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.[1][2] In August 1946, it joined Nos. 36 and 38 Squadrons, also flying Dakotas, as units of No. 86 Wing at RAAF Station Schofields, New South Wales. In February 1948, No. 37 Squadron was disbanded at Schofields.[2]

On 27 September 1965, Minister for Air Peter Howson announced that No. 37 Squadron was to be re-raised to operate twelve Lockheed C-130E Hercules transport aircraft which had been purchased for the RAAF.[4] The squadron was subsequently reformed at RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales, in February 1966.[5] After taking delivery of the C-130E Hercules, it began long-range missions in support of Australian forces in Vietnam including aero-medical evacuations conveying wounded soldiers back to Australia, generally via RAAF Base Butterworth, Malaysia.[6] On 5 February 1967, one of the unit's Hercules was the first Australian strategic transport aircraft to land at Vung Tau. The squadron also transported forces out of Vietnam following the Australian withdrawal from the conflict in December 1972.[7] As well as participating in military exercises and overseas peacekeeping commitments, the Hercules became well known in the Southern Pacific after being called on for relief following many natural disasters including tidal waves in New Guinea, cyclones in the Solomons and Tonga, and fires and floods throughout Australia.[8] It played a significant part in the evacuation of civilians following Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, Northern Territory, in 1974–75; a No. 37 Squadron C-130E was the first aircraft to touch down in Darwin following the disaster.[6] The Hercules also evacuated Australian embassy personnel from Saigon, South Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.[6][9] In January–February 1979, two No. 37 Squadron C-130Es evacuated Australian and other foreign embassy staff from Tehran, shortly before the collapse of royal rule during the Iranian Revolution.[10] The same year, the squadron began operations with two ex-Qantas Boeing 707s, handing them over to No. 33 Flight at the beginning of 1981.[11]

C-130E Hercules of No. 37 Squadron at Clark Air Base, Philippines, November 1981

In 1986, No. 37 Squadron transported the Popemobiles on John Paul II's tour of Australia; its other unusual cargoes have included kangaroos and sheep to Malaysia, and archaeological exhibits from China.[6] In February 1987, the unit again joined No. 36 Squadron, along with No. 33 Squadron, as part of a reformed No. 86 Wing under the newly established Air Lift Group.[12] The following year, No. 37 Squadron achieved 200,000 accident-free flying hours on the Hercules.[6] The Australian public had the experience of flying in the C-130s when they were employed by the Federal Government to provide air transport during the 1989 Australian pilots' dispute that curtailed operations by the two domestic airlines.[13] Described as one of the "busiest" and "hardest-working" units in the RAAF, No. 37 Squadron re-equipped with new-model C-130J-30 Super Hercules II in 1999.[1] The unit has continued to support Australian peacekeeping missions around the world, including transport operations during the first Gulf War in 1990–91, Operation Solace in Somalia in 1993, Operation Warden in East Timor during 1999–2000, and on a rotating detachment following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[7][13][14][15][16] It was strengthened to create a "super squadron" on 17 November 2006, when its force of twelve C-130Js was augmented by twelve C-130Hs from No. 36 Squadron, prior to the latter re-equipping with the Boeing C-17 Globemasters and relocating to RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.[7][17] In July 2008, No. 37 Squadron celebrated the 65th anniversary of its establishment during World War II.[16] It was transferred from No. 86 Wing to No. 84 Wing on 1 October 2010, as part of a restructure of Air Lift Group.[18] The C-130Hs were retired during 2012, the last pair at Richmond on 30 November.[19]

No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules and personnel in the Middle East during 2009

The retirement of the C130H saw a major restructure of the unit with a downsize of personnel from over 600 to approximately 400 personnel.[citation needed] It commenced 2013 with a successful search-and-rescue of French sailor Alain Delord, who was located approximately 500 nm south of Tasmania. No. 37 Squadron crews located Delord adrift in a liferaft before airdropping supplies, maintaining watch and ultimately guiding in a rescue vessel 58 hours later.[20] The two crews involved in the rescues were awarded a Chief of Joint Operations Group Commendation for their efforts.[citation needed] The squadron celebrated its 70th Anniversary on 17 July 2013 with a parade, attended by Air Vice Marshal M. Hupfeld, Air Commander Australia and flyby over major Sydney landmarks, which received national coverage. In November, the squadron deployed to the Philippines to participate in humanitarian relief operations in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.[21][22]

In August 2014 aircraft from No. 37 Squadron based in the Middle East were involved in the airdrop of humanitarian supplies to civilians in Iraq following an offensive by Islamic State forces. The first drop occurred on the night of 13/14 August with an RAAF C-130J part of a 16-aircraft mission including US C-17s and C-130Hs and a British C-130J which delivered supplies to Yezidi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar. According to the Australian Department of Defence "the operational air drop was the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999." A second drop was later conducted to deliver supplies to isolated civilians in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli.[23][24] Later, a C-130J was involved in the airlift arms and munitions to forces in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq in late-September. The involvement of RAAF transport aircraft in operations in Iraq is ongoing.[25]

Current role[edit]

The squadron currently maintains a tactical airlift capability with roles including search and rescue, air land, airdrop and formation. Two of its aircraft are deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations.[26]


  1. ^ a b c "37 Squadron". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Roylance, Air Base Richmond, p. 92
  3. ^ Odgers, Air War Against Japan, p. 381
  4. ^ "New RAAF squadron for transports". The Canberra Times (National Library of Australia). 28 September 1965. p. 10. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Roylance, Air Base Richmond, p. 117
  6. ^ a b c d e Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 100–103
  7. ^ a b c Hamilton, Eamon (30 November 2006). "Dawn of a new era". Air Force News. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 311
  9. ^ Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, p. 274
  10. ^ "RAAF Evacuation of Australians from Iran, 1979". Pathfinder. April 2007. 
  11. ^ "Boeing 707". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 107–108, 116–117
  13. ^ a b Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 110–111
  14. ^ "Advance party headed for Somalia". Air Power Development Centre. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "RAAF units in East Timor". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Heavy Workload for Hercules as 37 Squadron Marks 65th Anniversary". Department of Defence. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force Squadrons Celebrate New Role". Department of Defence. 17 November 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  18. ^ "Restructure of Air Lift Group Units". Department of Defence. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  19. ^ Hamilton, Eamon (6 December 2012). "Emotional end of an era". Air Force News: p. 5. 
  20. ^ "One to remember". Air Force: p. 2. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Air Force assists Philippines". Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "Operation Philippines Assist". Department of Defence. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "JTF633 supports Herc mercy dash" (Press release). Department of Defence. 22 August 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  24. ^ "Australia steps up assistance to Iraqi people" (Press release). Department of Defence. 31 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "ADF delivers fifth shipment to Iraq" (Press release). Department of Defence. 26 September 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "Air Force’s No 37 Squadron celebrates its 70th anniversary" (Press release). Department of Defence. 16 July 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.