Operation Southern Discovery is the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) contribution to the whole-of-government, Department of Environment and Energy-led activity in the Antarctic Region – the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP).

Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY is an enduring peace-time activity in support of the Australian Antarctic Division. It includes Australia's national interests, which are based on the region's scientific, environmental, strategic and economic importance.

The ADF involvement in the AAP is consistent with the Antarctic Treaty's prohibition of any military activity other than the provision of personnel or equipment in support of scientific or other peaceful purposes.

Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY covers approximately 7 per cent of the world's surface and includes Antarctic locations, the Southern Ocean south of 60 degrees, the internationally recognised Australian EEZ of Macquarie Island as well as the territory of Heard Island and McDonald Island (HIMI).

Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY occurs annually, and is primarily, although not exclusively, in support during each Austral summer period (i.e. November to March).

Australia’s commitment to Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY, including the number of personnel involved varies periodically, with a larger contribution during the summer months.

ADF elements regularly allocated to Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY include:

  • Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III aircraft providing a logistics air bridge from Hobart Airport to Wilkins Aerodrome in Antarctica;
  • Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic capabilities to ensure safety of marine navigation and assist scientific research;
  • Royal Australian Navy Meteorological capabilities providing weather forecasting and climate research and analysis; and
  • Australian Army Geospatial Survey capabilities assisting infrastructure projects and airfield surveys;