RAAF operations against IS to wind up late this year or early next?

Australia’s part in the war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria looks like ending late this year or early next year.

With Mosul set to fall, possibly within days, the main fight against IS – referred to by the acronym Daesh – will move to neighbouring Syria where their de facto capital, the city of Raqqa, is under attack.

In a briefing to reporters in Canberra on Thursday, Australian Defence Force chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston said there were plenty of other people’s combat aircraft closer to Syria to support that fight.

Australia’s Air Task Group currently comprises six F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and a KC-30A airborne refuelling aircraft.

All operate from bases in the United Arab Emirates, requiring a long flight up the Persian Gulf to reach their area of operations. Australia also has about 300 troops training Iraqi security forces, as well as a group of special forces mentoring the Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service.

Australian aircraft flew their first operations over Iraq in October 2014 and in September 2015, the mission, called Operation Okra, was expanded to permit sorties over Syria.

However, Iraq has remained the main game, with most strike missions this year directed at supporting Iraqi security forces in the fight to retake Mosul.

Iraqi security forces have now compressed Daesh forces, thought to number under 400, into a small area of the old city of about half a square kilometre.

“The liberation of Mosul is inevitable and I expect success is now measured within days for when Mosul will be declared cleared,” he said.

VADM Johnston said the fight would increasingly move to Syria.

“It’s a long flight for us to get to that part so others are better placed to contribute there,” he said.

However, Daesh will still have a presence in Iraq, though their activities are now expected to take the form of insurgency.

VADM Johnston said the Australian government had undertaken to support Iraq through to the defeat of Daesh and the coalition would continue to back Iraqi forces in operations against these remaining pockets.

“We await further guidance from the government of Iraq about the timing and sequencing of those operations,” he said.

VADM Johnston said Iraqi forces would need a period of recovery after Mosul before turning their attention to other Daesh strongholds, including Tel Afar and the Euphrates Valley.

“I expect our contribution to be there well through to the end of the year in its current format and potentially into next year as well,” he said.

“It will all depend on how the Iraqi government decides to move on those other pockets of Daesh resistance.”


  1. says

    A great job done by our boys.I don’t care what anyone says,the Rhino is the most proven multi role fighter in the world.Our E-7s have proved their worth time and time again.A great combo and it even comes with fries.Smashdeash.

  2. Hayden.R says

    A) you forgot the women both flying and on the ground.
    B) I agree with you there. I have a thing with two seater aircraft, especially in the strike/bomber role, that’s why I think the F-35 should have a two seater version. the F/A-18F Rhino’s have proven their worth and I hope they will be around a long time after the ’35 replaces the Classic hornets. I also believe two seaters will fly and work along side drones with the UAVs being the equivalent of p-51’s to the B-17.

  3. Adrian P says

    Will we be sending C17s to supply aid to the displaced population especially now that the cities are now piles of rubble. The jobs not finished until the breeding ground for discontent to terrorism is dealt with.

  4. Art says

    Why has this entire mission been conducted in secret? The Australian public know nothing of success or failure. All we get is along the lines of ‘our boys are doing a great job.’ OK if that’s the case let’s have some real reporting. And maybe this could include the real cost to the Australian tax payer.

  5. says

    Art,Its none of your business what goes on weather your a taxpayer or not.Its called national security or opsec.It has not been conducted in secrecy,because they have released a lot of info and has been on the news all the time.As a taxpayer u r essentially garenteeing the safety of innocents over there,and our safety here.Please don’t get me started on this subject.U r paying for people on the dole and taking drugs etc.Please complain about that.

  6. Josh James says

    I doubt it will be the last time our brilliant service personnel will be putting their lives on the line against these idiots. Libya, the Horn of Africa, Korea. Unfortunately there are many options.

    However, they have more than provided their fair share of damage. The Wedgies, Rhinos and 30s have proven to be fantastic whilst the classic Hornets can bow out in style.

    I look forward to getting to know more about what they have done

  7. Harry says

    Sorry Paul, even if OPSEC is important – and it is – it doesn’t matter whether its secret or not; if he is a taxpaying Australian, it IS his business, just like everyone else’s. That doesn’t mean its prudent to advertise it all over the place and it doesn’t mean that the Govt. needs to tell it straight away or in full (after all OPSEC is important). This is a democracy and voters (taxpayers) have a right to make whatever they want their business!

    By the way there are a lot of people on the dole – just under 6% unemployed; 12-14% under-employed (some who have supplemental payments). That means roughly 12% youth unemployment and up to 30% youth underemployment. One fifth of Australians (inc babies and grandparents, etc), or one quarter of the workforce, aren’t working at all or enough (in this expensive country) because they can’t find a good job or any descent job (the economy actually isn’t that great since 2008). The problem isn’t with people ‘on’ the dole but those who ‘bludge’ on the dole. And yes druggies too, especially ice addicts.

  8. Mick181 says

    Sorry Paul i fundamentaly disagree that its not our Buissness what the ADF is getting up to. Everything the ADF does, everything the ADF procures is on behalf of the Australian People. But we elect representitives to oversee the ADF.
    For the security of Australia and our Men & Women in uniform we don’t always need to know the specifics of Missions and what equipment they use but what the ADF does every minute is and will always be the buissness of the Australian people because if they get it wrong it could mean the end of the Commonwealth of Australia.

  9. says

    Harry,understand the the armed forces are here to protect us.That is all we need to know.Yes he is taxpayer just like me but we don’t need to know.Even people who say it is their right to know what happens in places like our joint facilities and even such places like Groom Lake.Yes it is a democracy but 90% of what goes on is no ones business.Yes what the ADF procures is on behalf of us for our safety.Mick,you say what the ADF gets up to every minute is our business?Unbeleivable.You wouldn’t even hold a janitors clearance at an AFB with that attitude.

  10. says

    And lastly,I have been working at Avalon since 2011.I was working in the Military fast jet ops.I have dealt with and worked with wing commanders sqn leaders and Ex AVM as a boss.I have worked and dealt with many embassy staff from the DA offices very closely and some are very good friends of mine.So the moral of the story is our men and women execute them selves and their missions which make me very proud of them.The Airforce have released so much info about plan Jericho and the like.So stop with this I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW AS A TAXPAYER.They will tell u what u need to know and that’s it.Like it or lump it.

  11. Gary says

    Oh for goodness sake people, if you are that interested in cost to the taxpayer, do a bit a research and digest the defence budget and look for Op Okra! Really!!!

  12. John N says

    As we have come to expect, the boys and girls of the RAAF (and ADF generally), continue to perform at a high professional standard and will no doubt continue to do so until it is time to return home, which no doubt they and we are looking forward to.


    You said: “I don’t care what anyone says, the Rhino is the most proven multi role fighter in the world”, I don’t know that anyone here is giving the Rhino a ‘kicking’, yes they are certainly the most modern and capable combat aircraft that are currently in operational service with the RAAF, and will perform well up to their planned retirement date at around 2030.

    And at 2030, after 20 years of service, I will be happy to see them replaced with the planned (and budgeted for) 4th Squadron of F-35A’s.

    For as good as the Rhino currently is, and will continue to be during it’s 20 year service life, the RAAF will be better served well into the future by a ‘full’ fleet of 5th Gen combat aircraft, and not a mixed fleet of 4th and 5th Gen combat aircraft.


    There isn’t going to be a two seat F-35, not going to happen. whilst a crew of two is certainly valuable with current 4th Gen aircraft, the need for two seats will be well and truly overtaken by the data fusion capabilities of 5th Gen aircraft, eg, the F-35.


    John N

  13. Hayden.R says

    a concept that air forces and aircraft manufacturers need to look at is the mental states of single and two seater fighter/strike aircraft. a human can make a decision not only concerning the machine but also him/herself, and others around them. its a human matter that a computer cannot understand or carryout effectively. people need people to survive and your copilot/ACO/nav can always back you up. if the aircraft became the target of an EW attack and the system fails, what happens? is a life, or more lost for no reason because the pilot or ACO cant fly the plane? this is where they need to think about the pilots.

  14. Harry says

    Paul, to be fair we weren’t talking about secret facilities or classified information that ‘we don’t need to know’ we were talking about Syria and more specifically the media’s under reporting of it. I generally take your point and agree. But the whole if the adf is all for naught without a democracy. I’d hate to think our service men and women don’t respect or believe in that, and don’t fight for it. Democracy essentially means a high degree of accountability which in turn requires a level of transparency. And when people say it’s ‘none of your business’ it gets up my nose. It is our business but also our responsibility to research it if we want more to some degree too.

  15. Mick181 says

    Hayden with the F-35 Data fusion capabilities it won’t be a crew of 1 or 2 but a crew of 100s. It will be all the operators in the back of the AWACS, the sensor operators on the Hobart DDGs or another F-35 Pilot 100ks away. They will be getting the same picture a Back Seater would get and able to take control of the weapon after launch.

  16. says

    Harry,there has already been a high degree of accountability and transparency.We don’t need to know any more.Our service women and men have conducted themselves with honour.If it gets up your nose because you want to know more,do yourself a favour and join the RAAF.There are many things that have to be classified,and to be honest the RAAF have been more than forthcoming in what they are doing.

  17. harry says

    Paul, ‘head palm in amazing frustration at the lack of mutual understanding’; we seem to be talking at cross purposes. Personally, I don’t want or need to know more. I think we are arguing about two different things here; I specifically said we weren’t talking about classified info!… Thats why I wrote NOT “talking about secret facilities or classified information that ‘we don’t need to know’ [about,] we were talking about Syria and more specifically the media’s under reporting of it” What I do have a problem with is people saying its none of their business. I don’t think its helped by your aggressive responses in defence of the RAAF. I don’t appreciate snide remarks like, “go join the adf” and “like it our lump it.” If you are who you say you are I would’ve expected a little more considered comments than the quite defensive attitude that comes across. This isn’t the ABC or some left-wing chat room you know.