The Royal Australian Air Force’s deployment of fighter jets to the Middle East to support combat operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has concluded with the final rotation of six F/A-18F Super Hornets returning to RAAF Base Amberley in south-east Queensland on Wednesday.
The aircraft and personnel from 1 Squadron were formally welcomed home at Amberley by family and friends and an official party including Prime Minsiter Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies.
The six Super Hornets had been deployed to Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE since June 2017, and flew their last “strike mission” earlier this month.
“The effort to establish the Air Task Group and then to sustain this mission was outstanding and the RAAF’s men and women have again proven themselves to be a professional fighting force,” Minister Payne said.
“I also acknowledge the valuable support our Air Force families provided while our serving members were deployed so far from home.”
Under Operation Okra, the RAAF had maintained a continuous deployment of six F/A-18 fighters, either single-seat F/A-18A ‘classic’ Hornets or 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.
While the six Super Hornets and their crews and support staff have now returned to Australia, for now theAir Task Group will continue operations in support of the Coalition air campaign in Iraq and Syria with a Wedgetail AEW&C and KC-30 MRTT aircraft.