Three tonnes of equipment and baggage and 81 scientific and support personnel have been flown to Antarctica as part of the New Zealand Defence Force's annual mission to help advance research in the world's harshest continent.

The scientists and support staff and equipment are needed to aid the New Zealand and United States Antarctic research programmes.

They were flown to the icy continent on a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Boeing 757 as part of the NZDF's first strategic airlift support flight to Antarctica for the 2016-17 summer season.

NZDF senior national officer on the continent Lieutenant Commander Ross Hickey said two more RNZAF Boeing flights were scheduled before the end of October to take another 100 people to Scott Base and McMurdo Station.

Further flights will be made from late November by the C-130 Hercules, the workhorses of the RNZAF.

Joint Forces New Zealand Commander Major General Tim Gall said the NZDF had been contributing to the lifeline of support for New Zealand and American scientists working in Antarctica for the past 51 years.

"Every year our aircraft support the Antarctic research programmes by bringing about 330 scientists and other personnel and almost 40 tonnes of equipment needed to carry out vital research on the continent," Gall said.

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Squadron Leader Matt Ferris, captain of the NZDF's first strategic airlift support flight to the continent for the 2016-17 summer season. Photo / Supplied.
Squadron Leader Matt Ferris, captain of the NZDF's first strategic airlift support flight to the continent for the 2016-17 summer season. Photo / Supplied.

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Beggs said the significant contribution of the NZDF demonstrated the collaborative nature of Antarctic research and logistics.

"NZDF support is an integral part of New Zealand's strategic leadership both on the Antarctic continent and in the Southern Ocean and we are grateful for the level of professionalism under which these personnel operate," Beggs said.

The NZDF also provides search and rescue support, air transport, operations at Harewood Terminal in Christchurch and McMurdo, and support for the unloading of the annual container ship.

Up to 220 NZDF staff - including air crew and ground support, passenger and cargo facilitation, logistics, fuel specialists, Army engineers and heavy plant operators, cargo handlers and communications specialists - are deployed during the summer to support the Scott Base and McMurdo stations.

The 2016-17 research season marks the 60th anniversary of New Zealand's operational presence in Antarctica and the construction of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut.