The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Air Task Group has launched its first airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Iraq.

The Australian Department of Defence said in a statement: "Two bombs were dropped from an F/A-18F Super Hornet onto an ISIL facility.

"No further details of this mission are available at this time.

"Further information will be provided when Defence conducts its next Operation OKRA update briefing."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quoted by The Australian as saying: "We sent our Super Hornets to the Middle East to do a job to protect Australia’s national interest.

"It’s good that they’re doing it, and I know they will do it very well."

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On 5 October, one of the RAAF Super Hornets had to call off a potential strike on a moving ISIL target in Iraq, due to fear of civilian casualties, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Australian Joint Operations chief David Johnston said: "One of our [Super Hornet] packages on the first night … had an identified target that it was tracking, and that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of collateral damage, so they discontinued the attack at that point."

The aircraft have been conducting air interdiction and close air support missions over northern Iraq since 5 October.

"We sent our Super Hornets to the Middle East to do a job to protect Australia’s national interest."

Comprising 600 soldiers, including Special Forces, the KC-30A tanker, Super Hornets and the E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, the Australian Air Task Group is operating from the UAE as part of an Iraqi Government-approved and US-led international coalition assembled to fight ISIL.

Meanwhile, Australia is finalising an agreement with the Iraqi Government that will allow deployment of nearly 200 Australian Special Forces to advise and assist Iraqi security forces in the fight against ISIL.

The US and several of its allies, including the UK, Netherlands, France, Denmark and Belgium, are already bombing ISIL targets in Iraq.

In addition, the US has partnered with five Arab countries to counter ISIL in Syria.

Image: A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft flies over Iraq. Photo: courtesy of Sergeant Hamish Paterson / copyright Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Defence Technology