Australian Operation Okra air combat mission to end

The final RAAF Air Task Group led by AIRCDRE Terry van Haren poses at Al Minhad AB in late September. (Defence)

Air combat operations against ISIS by the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Task Group (ATG) under Operation Okra have ended, with the strike element of the ATG to return home to Australia in January, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne announced on Friday.

The current rotation of six F/A-18F Super Hornets, one E-7A Wedgetail and a KC-30A MRTT led by AIRCDRE Terry van Haren has been deployed since June, and is the seventh RAAF ATG rotation to be deployed to Al Minhad AB in the UAE since combat operations began in September 2014.

Minister Payne (right), Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Leo Davies (centre) and Deputy Air Commander Australia AIRCDRE Guy Wilson (left) announcing the ATG withdrawal. (Defence)

“The battlefield success against Daesh means our own Operation Okra has now reached a natural transition point and our strike aircraft will begin returning home early in the New Year,” Minister Payne said.

“Since October 2014, our Hornet pilots and support personnel have made a significant contribution in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and I commend all the ADF personnel who have contributed over this period for their dedication, skill and professionalism.

“Australia’s Air Task Group has made a valued contribution to coalition operations against Daesh that is highly regarded by the US, Iraq and coalition partners.”

In total, RAAF Hornets and Super Hornets conducted more than 2,700 strike missions against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, while the KC-30 and Wedgetail have been regarded as the tankers and command & control “aircraft of choice” for many key coalition operations.

The KC-30 and Wedgetail will remain deployed to support continuing coalition operations.

A KC-30 and Wedgetail will remain in the Middle East, but the RAAF’s Super Hornets are coming home. (Defence)

Comments

  1. Josh James says

    Well done! The RAAF proves again why it’s the best small air force in the west. Let’s hope all the Okra personnel will be home safe and sound soon as well.

  2. says

    Well done guys. Now this hopefully frees up the Rhino demo for Avalon! It’s the best demo jet in the world. See you guys at Amberley soon!

  3. Allan says

    Thanks to all squadrons of Air Combat Group for their dedication and professionalism to a job well done.

  4. John N says

    It wasn’t much more than a decade or so ago, that the RAAF would have had to rely on it’s coalition partners to provide AAR and AEW&C to support our combat aircraft in a distant operation, but these days we can provide and deliver the complete package, which is an impressive achievement.

    And of course operating out of Al Minhad air base in the UAE, located at the bottom end of the Gulf, the ATG is further supplied and supported by the long range capabilities of C-17A flights from Australia too, another capability the RAAF didn’t possess a bit over a decade ago either.

    A very professional job by the RAAF indeed, which the remaining E-7A and KC-30A airframes will continue to do until it’s their time to return home too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  5. David Drewitt says

    Well done guys. Great job considering size of fleet. Proud for Cobham to have been part of the A330 delivering fuel to the fighters

  6. Philip says

    This operation successfully proved that the RAAF could both sustain itself relatively independently as an expeditionary deployment, as well as provide valued broader coalition support even as the Rhinos depart.

    Congratulations to all service personnel directly or indirectly involved in making a very successful contribution to supporting the Iraqi Security Forces, as well as a valuable proof of concept for any future deployment.

  7. says

    Canada should look at how successful this deployment was. They could definitely follow the model of the RAAF on how a small force operates. Even if they choose the upgraded Rhinos to full spec, and our enablers that go with it. It would be a thousand times better than what they have at the moment.

  8. John N says

    Paul, Canada? Rhino? Where does that come from?

    There is currently zero (below zero) chance that a Canadian Government is going to order a Boeing product, of any description (including the Super Hornet/Rhino), until their trade dispute is resolved, and I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

    During our time deploying aircraft for Operation Okra, we have rotated both Classic and Super Hornets, plus E-7A, KC-30A and C-17A’s to provide logistic support to the main operating base in the UAE.

    Canada (despite the defence procurement basket case it is), actually had a similar capability deployed in the ME (with the exception of E-7A), it had Classic Hornets, it has C-17’s and it also has an AAR capability with it’s CC-150 Polaris (converted Airbus A310’s) aircraft deployed, it also has CP-140 Aurora (their version of the P-3) on deployment too.

    Yes Canada withdrew it’s Classic Hornet aircraft in early 2016, but to the best of my knowledge, all of Canada’s other assets have remained operational in the region (just as our E-7A and KC-30A will remain operational after our combat aircraft are withdrawn).

    Not here to defend Canada (yes they have poor procurement processes, about zero bipartisan political support and only about 1% of GDP defence spending), but all things considered, they did contribute reasonably well to operation in the ME, despite withdrawing their combat aircraft early.

    Paul, Canada might not be perfect (far from perfect), but I suggest you check your facts first before giving them a kicking, ok?

  9. says

    John N, as you might know Canada has been in the news a lot lately. We have some commonality with our ally Canada. I was saying that Canadas DF admires the way we go about things, and a few other countries as well.When did I say that Canada will buy the Rhino? I said EVEN , this does not say will or are! Yes John! I know we have rotated these platforms through, my ten year old son knows this. I never SAID Canada hasn’t contributed well. Lastly I always check my facts very thoroughly unlike you who rely on google. I never gave Canada a kicking here, but maybe you should give JonFedup from DT who is Canadian, and gives Canada the biggest kickings possible. Give him a good rev up not me.Cheers.