The Australian Air Task Group (ATG) has successfully completed its first operational mission in Syria, as part of the international coalition’s effort to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Recently, the Government of Australia decided to extend its air strikes against ISIL (Daesh) into Syria after Iraq’s request for international assistance to strike ISIL strongholds, and a formal request from the US Government.
The latest mission, which offered on-call interdiction and dynamic targeting support, involved two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18A Hornets, a KC-30A air-to-air refuelling aircraft and E-7A airborne early warning and control aircraft.
According to ATG commander air commodore Stu Bellingham, the RAAF Hornets searched for enemy activity in eastern Syria and reported to the international coalition’s Combined Air Operations Centre through the E-7A.
Bellingham said: "Daesh controls a large amount of territory in eastern Syria that serves as a source of recruitment and oil revenues, and as a base from which it continues to launch attacks into Iraq.
"The Hornets were also prepared for any short notice high priority tasking which could include surveillance and weapons release."
The ATG mission was part of Operation OKRA, which is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international effort to disrupt and degrade Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
According to the Australian Department of Defence, ATG will continue to plan and perform air strikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria as part of coalition strike operations.
With this decision to extend its air strikes into Syria, Australia joined with countries including the US, Canada, France, Arab countries and Turkey in Syria to fight against ISIL.
Recently, France also performed more than six hours of flight over Syria, marking the country’s first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission in Syria. France said it will extend the ISR mission to begin airstrikes later.
Image: RAAF’s F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation with a KC-30A aircraft during the first mission of Operation OKRA to be flown over Syria. Photo: courtesy of SGT Pete/ Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.