RAAF personnel

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed a new contingent of soldiers and aircraft to the Middle East to support the fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

The contingent comprises six F/A-18A Hornets from RAAF Base Tindal, and an undisclosed number of soldiers. It will replace elements of the initial Air Task Group (ATG), which was deployed to Al Minhad air base in the UAE in September 2014, as part of Operation Okra.

A total of 400 RAAF personnel will be included in the first ATG, 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.

In addition, the C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster III aircraft are available to provide additional humanitarian and logistic support as required.

"The contingent comprises six F/A-18A Hornets from RAAF Base Tindal, and an undisclosed number of soldiers."

Air Commander Australia air vice-marshal Gavin Turnbull said: "Our people are well trained, skilled and professional members of the Australian Defence Force.

"I acknowledge the immense amount of planning and preparation by personnel right across the air force that is undertaken to successfully execute operational deployments."

The existing F/A-18F Super Hornets are scheduled to arrive in Australia in April.

Australia currently has approximately 600 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed to the Middle East to support the US-led international coalitions to disrupt and degrade IS in Iraq.

In addition, the country announced that 300 soldiers from Brisbane’s 7th Brigade will undertake training and preparation in the coming weeks to contribute to the international building partner capacity (BPC) mission in Iraq.

The soldiers are expected to deploy to Camp Taji, north-west of Baghdad, in May. They would work closely with personnel from New Zealand, the US, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, to train local forces in the fight against the militants.

Image: RAAF personnel gets briefing at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory, prior to departing for the Middle East. Photo: courtesy of CPL Terry Hartin / © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.