The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) two F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft have successfully completed the first armed combat operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Deployed on request for assistance by the Iraqi Government in combating ISIL terrorists, the operations involved an Air Interdiction and Close Air Support mission over northern Iraq overnight.
The aircraft were equipped with a 20mm cannon, GPS-guided munitions, laser-guided munitions, sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and radar-guided missiles and were on-call to attack targets as identified.
The operation completed without strikes against any targets and the aircraft returned safely to Australia’s main support base in the Middle East to disarm and prepare for future sorties.
Defence Minister David Johnston was quoted as saying: "Our risk assessments, the way we do our targeting, the way we conduct our operations, particularly in a counter-insurgency, is focused almost exclusively as a first point on ‘Let’s not get this wrong, let’s not have any civilian casualties, let’s stay focused on the task.’"
A RAAF E-7A Wedgetail Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft also supported this mission and other coalition aircraft.
The Australian Air Task Group (ATG) comprises nearly 400 RAAF personnel who have been deployed to the Middle East.
The US, the UK and France have already conducted air raids in Iraq, while Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have pledged fighter aircraft to counter the terrorist group.
Supported by five Arab countries, the US attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft is also bombing IS positions in Syria, in a bid to limit the group’s ability to lead, control, project power and conduct operations.
Canada has also announced its intention to support the US-led mission to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, by contributing one CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft, one dedicated airlift aircraft for refuelling, air surveillance and transportation, and up to six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets.
Image: A Royal Australian Air Force F/A18F Super Hornet takes off for its first combat mission in Iraq. Photo: courtesy of Corporal Max Bree/ Defence News/ © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.