Increased tempo for RAAF Hornets over Syria and Iraq

Strike Element F/A-18A's over the Taji Military complex on their transit home after a mission in northern Iraq.
RAAF Strike Element F/A-18As over the Taji military complex on their transit home after a mission in northern Iraq. (Defence)

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.


  1. Chris Grealy says

    Hopefully the “Coalition” has learned to distinguish hospitals from refineries by now.

  2. Andrew says

    Great to hear these guys on the radio over here on the UAE, however its a long way from the UAE to Syria & Iraq and those aircraft must be getting flogged hours wise not to mention the cost of each mission.

    I know there is a logistics /staging base in the UAE however why aren’t the Hornets based closer to the AO? Kuwait, Saudi, Cyprus (with our RAF cousins), Turkey etc?? Just seems a expensive way to drop bombs on Hilux’s and other such targets, don’t get me wrong – as an Aussie over here, proud of what is being done, it just seems like a hard way to do it – wasn’t there a principle of war – Economy of Effort?

  3. Jason says

    The hours aren’t really an issue as, a) the Classic Hornet are at the end of their lives and will be phased out soon, and b) the flight regime is a benign one. Better to burn hours on the Classics Hornets instead of the newer Supers.

    The trade off of the longer missions is that diplomatic agreements are already in place for ADF operations in UAE as opposed to having to establish new agreements elsewhere, it’s not as simple as just tacking on to an ally’s existing arrangements. There is also the added advantage of being co-located at the logistics hub at AMD, instead of having to make an extra ALS hop from the hub to another base further forward.

  4. Dan says

    Well done, keep up the good work. Sadly in the world we live in where radical groups like ISIS thrive, we as a nation have to respond in this way with force. The men and women of the ADF have acted professionally and done us all proud. We owe you all. Respect