Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Feb 2017 Contents 54 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter FEB 2017
The RAAF has participated constantly in the fight
for the city and to date has dropped 170 precision-
guided munitions in support of Iraqi forces within
Mosul since the offensive began on 17 October.
Australia’s contribution known as Operation OKRA
started in September 2015 as part of an international
coalition – led by the U.S .
to shore up the Iraqi
Government in the face of a sudden and dramatic
offensive from the forces of ISIL. For a few weeks the
situation looked touch and go, with the rapid fall of
Mosul and a number of other centres to the small but
fanatical forces of ISIL, determined to establish their
own Caliphate and to exterminate all resistance in the
most brutal manner possible.
As part of the coalition, R A AF airpower helped
initially halt the advance, stabilise the situation and
then steadily reverse the gains that had been made
on the ground.
The current Commander of the Air Task Group is Air
Commodore Phil Gordon, who outlined the magnitude
of the RAAF effort since the operation commenced.
The ‘Classic’ and Super Hornets have dropped
1,632 munitions using GPS guidance and laser
designation to ensure that they land on their targets
with great precision. In some especially sensitive
circumstances the RAAF has used weapons with
a reduced quantity of explosive so the blast effects
are even further limited. The selection of targets is a
rigorous process involving a number of surveillance
assets, including at times Coalition JTACs (Joint
Terminal Attack Controllers) on the ground with eyes
on the target.
The Super and Classic Hornets have to date flown
a total of 15,945 hours, comprising 2,075 separate
missions. The E-7Cs have flown 3,700 hours on 300
missions. The indispensable KC-30A aerial tankers
have flown 902 missions for 7,215 hours aloft and
during that time have unloaded a mind-blowing 41
million liters of fuel to almost every aircraft in the
coalition inventory. The entire Air Task Group is a mere
250 people, which is testimony to the dedication and
enthusiasm of the ground support team as well as
the aircrew. The logistics effort necessary to keep
everything running smoothly is known as Operation
Accordion, the backbone of which is regular C-17
flights from Australia.
When first deployed in July 2016, Air Commodore
Gordon flew two combat missions, explaining that the
profile of a typical eight hour Hornet sortie was two to
three hours flying time to the target area – for example
Mosul – three hours on station conducting close air
support for ground forces and then a two to three
hour return. During this time the Hornet would have
to be refueled an average of six times, which at night
or in turbulence – or both – is no easy task. As an
illustration of how integrated the coalition operation is,
he said that on his missions he had not only received
fuel from a KC-30A, but also from the tankers of five
As impressive as the performance of RA AF assets
has been, the Air Commodore highlighted that the
most important ingredient are the people working
on the operation, both in theatre and back home in
Australia located in multiple Government agencies.
“One of the great things I enjoy as the commander
over here is getting around and seeing all of my
people. All of them – every man and woman over here
are deeply committed to what they are doing and
all of them understand the importance of their work.
Everyone is very, very highly motivated, extremely
professional and they are making a great contribution
on behalf of Australia. I ’m proud of everyone in the Air
Task Group – their focus and dedication has allowed
them to work flawlessly, day in and day out, on a
complex, demanding and vital mission.”
He also paid tribute to the people of the Joint
Operations Command and Joint Logistics Command
back in Australia, whose support has enabled the
RAAF to achieve such a high operational tempo.
Speaking of tempo, keeping the RAAF’s ageing
E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft
Credit: CoA / Terry Hartin
Technicians from the Air Task Group Strike
Element conduct maintenance on an F/A-18A
Hornet at Australia's main operating air base
in the Middle East Region.
Credit: CoA / David Gibbs
30/01/2017 6:44 PM
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