Four RAAF F/A-18A Hornets took part in the largest coalition air strikes against Islamic State (Daesh) to date when 137 targets in eastern Syria were destroyed by 21 aircraft on December 21.
“The targets were gas and oil separation plants in central Syria used by Daesh to facilitate their operations and movements,” Air Commodore Stuart Bellingham, Commander of the RAAF’s Air Task Group, said in a statement on January 4.
“Destruction of these facilities is expected to cause a long term military disadvantage to Daesh by limiting their movement.”
Defence said in a statement that despite being “hampered with poor visibility and a short timeframe to deliver weapons, the F/A-18A pilots were able to coordinate their strikes with other coalition aircraft operating in the airspace, to ensure all precision guided weapons were delivered accurately to destroy 12 allocated targets.”
In all the Hornets would release 16 weapons on December 21, a new record for the RAAF Air Task Group for a single day of operations during Operation Okra, after striking other targets earlier in the day.
The Air Task Group’s recent high tempo of operations continued when two days later RAAF Hornets struck Islamic State fighting positions in Ramadi, Iraq.
“A building being used by Daesh was not only a fighting position for them but also a weapons cache, this was confirmed when secondary explosions were observed after the impact of the F/A-18A weapons,” Defence said.
Then on Christmas evening the four Hornets struck three bridges on Islamic State’s main and auxiliary supply routes south of Sinjar, Iraq.
“These routes were frequently used by Daesh to replenish their fighting capability from Syria to Mosul,” AIRCDRE Bellingham said.
“Losing access to these routes severely disrupted and degraded Daesh’s resupply to areas that they have held on to strongly”.
The December air strikes were undertaken by the Air Task Group’s outgoing fifth strike rotation, which dropped more than 200 weapons during its three-month deployment to the Middle East.