The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed a KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft to support US-led efforts to help combat the Islamic State (ISIS).
The deployment is part of Operation OKRA, supporting the Operation Inherent Resolve mission.
Although the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and international forces have reclaimed the last post of territory held by ISIS in Syria, the Australia Department of Defence (DoD) said the extremist group continues to ‘pose a security threat in the Middle East region and beyond’.
At its peak, ISIS claimed to be in control of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq.
Since operations began in 2014, the coalition forces have driven back ISIS from around 110,000km².
Despite the formal end of the ‘caliphate’, the Western forces and Syrian fighters continue to maintain vigil against ISIS and to deny the terrorist group the resources it might use to resurge.
The RAAF’s Airbus KC-30A aircraft will deliver air-to-air refuelling capability to support coalition air operations in the Middle East region.
RAAF Air Task Group commander group captain Paul Long stated that the advanced aircraft helps generate greater reach for coalition air operations.
Long said: “The KC-30A can operate at long ranges, delivering significant payloads of fuel to a wide variety of Coalition aircraft.”
The presence of two forms of air-to-air refuelling systems enables the tanker to refuel almost all aircraft, including the F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet variants and the F-35A Lightning.
In a statement, the Australian DoD said: “Australia’s presence in Iraq remains at the request of the Iraqi Government. Australia continues to work closely with the Iraqi Government and global coalition partners to counter Daesh and eliminate the threat to the region and broader international community.”
Operation OKRA is the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) contribution to the international military intervention to combat ISIS.
The DoD has deployed around 600 ADF personnel to the Middle East in support of Operation OKRA.