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.
“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.