Royal Australian Air Force fighters have flown their last missions over Iraq, with two 1 Squadron F/A-18F Super Hornets completing the Australian Air Task Group’s final “strike mission” as part of Operation Okra on Sunday, Defence has announced.
The RAAF has maintained a continuous deployment of six F/A-18 fighters, either single-seat F/A-18A ‘classic’ Hornets and dual-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets, in the Middle East since September 2014 as part of the US-led international coalition’s campaign to defeat Islamic State, or Daesh, in Iraq and Syria. Since their first operational mission, the Hornets flew more than 2,700 sorties accumulating over 21,000 flying hours.
“Over more than three years, hundreds of ADF personnel have deployed to the Middle East as part of the ATG strike element. With each deployment, they have demonstrated the highest levels of skill, courage and professionalism,” Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said.
“Our aircrew and their support crews have consistently delivered in extremely difficult and challenging conditions.”
The current rotation of six Super Hornets has been deployed to Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE since June 2017.
“The Air Strike Group and their families can be proud of their achievements and their important contribution to help the Iraqi Security Forces liberate their country from Daesh,” CDF said.
While the six Super Hornets and their crews and support staff will now return to Australia, for now the ATG will continue operations in support of the Coalition air campaign in Iraq and Syria with a Wedgetail AEW&C and KC-30 MRTT aircraft.
“The ADF will continue to work with our coalition and Iraqi partners over the coming months to establish their ongoing requirements and assess where they can make the most valuable contribution, as we work to maintain the gains in that region,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.