The New Zealand Defence Force has marked 50 years of airlift support flights to Antarctica by delivering more than 3000kg of freight to the icy continent.

A C-130 Hercules flew the supplies to Antarctica yesterday - the first of eight support flights to be carried out by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) planned for this summer season.

"Operation Antarctica is one of our major missions," Major General Tim Gall, commander Joint Forces New Zealand said.

"The first RNZAF air cargo mission to Antarctica was in 1965, and 50 years on we continue to support Antarctica New Zealand and the US Antarctic programmes through the Joint Logistics Pool.

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"Our support recognises the importance of the scientific research being conducted in Antarctica."

The flights were "crucial", he said, because they ensured science and operational personnel working there had the necessary supplies to get through the season.

Up to 220 NZDF personnel including engineers, heavy plant operators, cargo handlers, and communications specialists are deployed during the summer season to support the team at Scott Base.

Antarctica New Zealand manages Scott Base and supports scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, particularly the Ross Sea region.