Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 15. August 4, 1971

U.S. Navy Base, Christchurch Airport

U.S. Navy Base, Christchurch Airport

This base was originally established as a base for military units supporting International Geophysical Year (1957-59) activities in the Antarctic. Its existence for the duration of the I.G.Y. was formalised by an agreement dated 24 December 1958 "regarding the provision of facilities in New Zealand for U.S. Antarctic expeditions." When the I.G.Y. terminated the agreement was extended indefinitely. At first this base was probably used only in connection with Antarctic activities and functioned only during the summer, but between 1962 and 1964 it became operational year-round and began receiving flights at about weekly intervals which had no connection with Antarctic activities. These flights, by heavy transport aircraft, originally C-124 Globemasters and other piston-driven aircraft, originate at Norton Air Force Base, California and pass through Hickam A.F.B., Hawaii, on their way to Christchurch From Christchurch they originally (pre-1967) went to Avalon A.A.F.B., near Melbourne, and latterly to Richmond A.A.F.B., New South Wales, and thence to Alice Springs (serving Pine Gap BNEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) station and from July 1 1968 onwards North West Cape Naval Communications Station. They return to die U.S. via American Samoa and/or Pacific Trust Territories. Little has ever been stated officially about the purpose of these flights, the only N.Z. announcement being that of the Prime Minister "All U.S. non-commercial aircraft making use of Harewood are cleared for entry into N.Z. subject to established diplomatic procedures. Regular flights are flown to N.Z. as part of a program of support for U.S. Government facilities in New Zealand. These facilities are the subject of agreements with the New Zealand Government which have been published," In fact, the only such agreements are those relating to Project Longbank and Mt John which provide that "U.S. aircraft may be based at agreed airports within N.Z." The "U.S. Government facilities" being supported are presumably Project Longbank and the Mt John Satellite Tracking Station.

Up to two flights per day between Christchurch and Woodbourne were often flown by the USN C-47 aircraft formerly stationed permanently at Christchurch, and since this aircraft was retired to the Ferrymead Museum, it is believed that this ferrying role has been taken over by RNZAF C-130 Hercules USN trucks from the Christchurch base make regular trips to the Washdyke HQ of the Mt John Satellite Tracking detachment carrying supplies and equipment.

At times the regular pattern of more or less weekly flights is broken, a C-141 Starlifter may be stationed at Christchurch for a week or more while other Starlitters come and go. In Mid-May 1970 for example, while C-14l/60130 sat on the tarmac for 3 days, 2 other C-141 s (60177 and 50280) touched down for a few hours only while a DC6 (03270) stayed about 36 hours and a C-130 Hercules called in for about 24 hours. All the regular flights and most of the irregular once are by aircraft of the 63rd Military Airlift Wing of the USAF Military Air Command (Macy Mac has extensive warehouses on the case distinct from those confirmed with Antarctic support, which is provided by USS Squardron VXE-6. To service these flights a CCA (Ground Control Approach) radar is operated year-round: the services of this radar are not available to New Zealand aircraft except in emergency.

Harewood's summer population is about 700. it has accommodation for 1100; and at peak times, particularly at the beginning of the Antarctic season, this accommodation is insufficient. Before year-round military activities began the base was staffed during the winter by 6 men employed on security maintenance. Currently about 50 men operate the base during the winter.

On the far side of Christchurch Airport the USN operates a Naval Communication Unit on a 24-hour, 7 day a week basis. This cons of a building about the size of a house with standby dice generator, and several large antennae including a log periodic, [unclear: b] gain antenna (suitable for use over a wide range of frequencies) omnidirectional low angle radiator, and two rhombic antennae. [unclear: C] of the communication unit is unknown, but it is somewhat m elaborate than that at McMurdo (Antarctic) which cost $1,500, [unclear: C] in 1960. Administratively, the communication facility appears to completely separated from Operation Deepfreeze, and is part of U.S. Defence Communications network, linked with Hawaii, un the overall direction of the Defence Communications Agency.

Apart from the logistics flights and the communication [unclear: un] Harewood functions as a general purpose military base. The C which was formerly permanently stationed there was in constant for what were called "training flights" and for other activities so as flying journalists and photographers to view the aircraft car, "America" out at sea, and taking aerial photographs of anti-Om demonstrators gathered in Latimer Square on 28 [unclear: Ji] 1968. Other activities include handling public relations work is other shore tasks for a visiting U.S. guided missile frigate providing jail facilities for anti-war deserters from the Providence (including one arrested by New Zealand police [unclear: minu] after he was married in Wellington. Harewood base public relation personnel organised a celebration of the Battle of the Coral anniversary in May 1968 which included a visit by a U.S. millitary band and in 1971 were responsible for the screening of a propaganda film on the threat posed by the Soviet Navy. In October 1970 a U.S.N. Orion anti-submarine aircraft was based Deepfreeze base during Exercise Longex, a U.S.-U.K.N. Australian naval exercise.

There are various other military or possibly military project associated with the Harewood Base. These are listed in the section following: