In 2022 the Air and Space Power Centre (ASPC) had the privilege of hosting Major Douglas Vavar from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force; as a Fellow under the PNG-Australia Defence Cooperation Program. Prior to attending the Fellowship Program, Major Vavar successfully completed the Australian Command and Staff Course at the Australian Defence College, where he was awarded a Master of Military and Defence Studies. During his time before conducting research in Australia, Major Vavar was the Operations Officer of the Air Transport Wing, based at the Jacksons Air Base (2017-20) in Port Moresby, PNG.

ASPC Fellows engage in research spanning across different time lengths of stay and academic accreditation. Whilst on this endeavour, the Fellows are also being heavily supported by our dedicated Research and Engagement team. Major Vavar took the opportunity during his Fellowship to engage and collaborate with Australian and PNG strategic thinkers as well as air power practitioners both in Australia and back home. These insights helped Major Vavar to develop an implementable strategy for the PNG Defence Force to enhance their air capability.            

Having spent 12 months applying his knowledge and research skills to the real life scenarios faced by PNG’s Air Wing as well as its future, the high value of Major Vavar’s ASPC Fellowship was evident during his presentation to the Chief of the PNG Defence Force, Major General Mark B.G. Goina, DMS, CBE, on 8 December 2022 on the topic “Future Papua New Guinea Defence Force Air Capability”. In the audience, was the Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Stephen Meredith, AM, DSM. Both DCAF and Major General Goina highly commended the research and saw great potential for it to immediate a future application.

“For a small brigade size force founded in 1973, the PNGDF, consisting of a Land Element, Air Operations Element and the Maritime Element, was immediately faced with inherent challenges to fulfil all four roles. My research shows that the Air Operations Element itself has never had the capability to conduct Intelligence, Security and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations alone, which is a key capability necessary to defend PNG. Whilst it has supported land forces and maritime patrols, the Air Element, has not been able to fulfil its primary task of defending PNGs borders and its territories. With a 750-kilometre land border and over 2.7 square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zones, the lack of air power capability and the porous borders present immense challenges for the PNGDF. Within these challenges are opportunities: I propose six capabilities to grow an Air Operations Group that will effectively fulfil its constitutional tasks. These capabilities will provide joint effects required as part of a whole of government approach to secure PNG. The Air Operations Group will work towards being an effective partnered agency in PNG and a credible partner within the Region.” – Major Doug Vavar, 2022

We look forward to continuing our relationship with PNG and Major Vavar, far into the future; we wish all the best and success on his future endeavours. Our team at the Air and Space Power Centre are sad to farewell Major Vavar but are excited to learn of future achievements; and to offer support wherever we can.