Australian military personnel and aircraft have departed for the Middle East to contribute to an international coalition formed to defeat the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.
The main group of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel left RAAF Bases Amberley and Williamtown, along with F/A-18F Super Hornets, a KC-30A multirole tanker transport and an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft.
Australian Air Force chief air marshal Geoff Brown AO said: "Today marked the departure of the main air force contingent deploying to the Middle East.
"The large amount of preparation conducted to deploy such a potent and capable force in a relatively short time is testament to the professionalism and skill of our air force."
Australia has committed a total of 600 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to the Middle East, following a formal request from the US.
Comprising 400 RAAF and 200 Australian Army soldiers, primarily the Special Air Services (SAS), the Australian contingent will operate from military bases outside Dubai, to respond to future government decisions regarding Iraq.
Australia has already made humanitarian aid drops in northern Iraq and also delivered arms and munitions to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, formerly called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The details of when Australia will be joining the US and France in air strikes against the militants are expected to be announced in the coming days, as reported by 9NEWS.
Meanwhile, US fighter aircraft are continuing air strikes against IS in Iraq, destroying their mortar position and a semi-tractor trailer carrying munitions in Sinjar.
The US Central Command said in a statement: "In other air strikes since Sept [September] 19, US fighters destroyed an ISIL boat ferrying supplies across the Euphrates River and an ISIL fighting position southwest of Baghdad.
"In addition, four air strikes north-west of Haditha destroyed two ISIL armed vehicles, three ISIL checkpoints and two ISIL guard outposts."
Image: Australian soldiers prepare to board the E-7A Wedgetail aircraft for deployment to the Middle East. Photo: courtesy of CPL Melina Young / © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.