RAAF Air Task Group strike operations against ISIS to end

Australian Defence Force personnel based at Australia's main air operating base in the Middle East Region with a range of Australian aircraft. *** Local Caption *** The Air Task Group (ATG) is deployed on Operation OKRA and is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government with a US-led Global Coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the Middle East Region (MER). The ATG comprises six RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. Additionally, the ATG has personnel working in the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, and embedded with the ‘Kingpin’ US tactical Command and Control Unit. The ATG is directly supported by elements of Operation ACCORDION including the Theatre Communications Group, Air Mobility Task Group, and the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit. There are up to 300 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed, at any one time, as part of, or in direct support of the ATG.
The RAAF’s seventh ATG rotation led by AIRCDRE Terry van Haren at Al Minhad AB. (Defence)

 

Defence Minister Marise Payne has announced that air combat operations against ISIS by Royal Australian Air Force Air Task Group (ATG) under Operation Okra have ended, and that the strike element of the ATG will return home to Australia in January.

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 have been deployed since June, and are the seventh RAAF ATG rotation to be deployed to Al Minhad AB in the UAE since combat operations began in September 2014.

From left, Deputy Air Commander Australia, Air Commodore Guy Wilson, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies, AO, CSC and the Minister for Defence Senator the Hon Marise Payne, MP as she announces the cessation of Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet operations in the Middle East Region during press conference at RAAF Base Glenbrook, NSW. *** Local Caption *** On Friday 22 December 2017 Minister for Defence Senator the Hon Marise Payne, MP, announced the Government’s decision to cease Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet operations in the Middle East. Australia will continue to work closely with the Government of Iraq to ensure Iraq is able to consolidate the gains made and work towards the final defeat of Deash. Australia remains committed to the Coalition’s role in Iraq and its security forces so Iraq is able to defeat Deash, keep its people safe and maintain its territorial sovereignty. The ADF will continue to provide essential training, advice and assistance to the Iraqi Security forces and law enforcement personnel through Task Group Taji, and Iraqi Counter-Terrorism operations through Special Operations Task Group. The F/A-18 Hornets have operated continuously in Iraq, as part of Operation OKRA, for more than three years, but the evolving nature of the mission in Iraq requires Defence to reconsider its force disposition.
Minister Payne (R) announces the ATG strike element withdrawal with Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Leo Davies and Deputy Air Commander Australia AIRCDRE Guy Wilson (L). (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-30A and E-7A were the tankers and command &control aircraft of choice for many key coalition operations.

The KC-30A and E-7A will remain deployed for the time being to continue supporting coalition operations.

An RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport, E-7A Wedgetail and an F/A-18F Super Hornet fly in formation as they transit to the airspace as part of Operation OKRA. *** Local Caption *** The Air Task Group (ATG) is deployed on Operation OKRA and is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government with a US-led Global Coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the Middle East Region (MER). The ATG comprises six RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. Additionally, the ATG has personnel working in the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, and embedded with the ‘Kingpin’ US tactical command and control unit. The ATG is directly supported by elements of Operation ACCORDION including the Theatre Communications Group, Air Mobility Task Group, and the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit. There are up to 300 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed, at any one time, as part of, or in direct support of the ATG.