RAAF aircraft

The first Australian Air Task Group (ATG) deployed to support the fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq is set to return to the country in the near future.

The ATG were deployed to Al Minhad air base in the UAE in September 2014, as part of Operation Okra.

It comprises 400 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel, as well as F/A-18F Super Hornets, E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and the KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft.

Combat operations were started by the ATG in October last year alongside a US-led coalition, conducting targeted airstrikes in support of Iraqi Security Force ground operations against the terrorists.

The group’s rate of effort continued to increase last month, with the Super Hornets flying 75 sorties and dropping 61 precision guided weapons against IS targets.

Meanwhile, the KC-30A tanker achieved a new milestone, providing more than 1429t of fuel to coalition aircraft during the month. This brought the total fuel offloaded from the single KC-30A to 3642t during this rotation.

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"The Australian Defence Force’s Air Task Group is the best equipped, best trained and most prepared air contingent the country has ever sent on operations."

Australian Defence Force chief air chief marshal Mark Binskin said: "You are handing over the air component in good shape for continued air strike, command and control and air-to-air refuelling operations into 2015.

"I believe our ATG is the best equipped, best trained and most prepared air contingent Australia has ever sent on operations, and the tireless efforts and professionalism of our people is reflected in the results."

A second deployment of RAAF personnel is scheduled to continue to operate the same aircraft types over Iraq in the coming months.

Apart from air strikes, the Australian Military aircraft also delivered humanitarian supplies to isolated civilians in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli.

Civilians in Yezidi trapped on Mount Sinjar after IS launched an offensive in the country in June of last year also received aid from the aircraft.

In addition to this, an Australian Special Forces group is advising and assisting Iraqi security forces to better fight the terrorists.

Image: A RAAF KC-30A tanker along with two F/A-18F Super Hornets and an E-7A Wedgetail aircraft fly above heavy cloud in the Middle East. Photo: courtesy of FLTLT Harry Hayes/ © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.