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Operation Okra
Part of the American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present) and the Global War on Terrorism
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Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft conduct air-to-air refuelling with a RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft by night over the skies of Iraq
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Operation Okra is the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the Military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The operation commenced on 31 August 2014,[1] and its stated aim is to combat ISIL threats in Iraq.[2] The force is part of Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East, originally under the command of Major General Craig Orme.[3] Orme handed over command of JTF 633 to Rear Admiral Trevor Jones in December 2014.[4]

Air force contribution[edit | edit source]

Aircraft[edit | edit source]

In late September 2014, an Air Task Group (ATG) of 400 personnel from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was deployed to Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates as part of the coalition to combat Islamic State forces in Iraq.[5] Aircraft include:[6] Offensive aircraft:

Support:

The ATG began operations on 1 October.[7]

A number of C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft based in the Middle East have also been used to conduct airdrops of humanitarian aid and to airlift arms and munitions since August.[8][9][10][11]

A second ATG arrived in the UAE in early January 2015 to replace the first group of personnel and operate the aircraft originally deployed in September.[12]

Providing an operational update on 12 January 2015, the Chief of Joint Operations, Admiral David Johnston, stated that Australian aircraft provide around 13 percent of coalition airstrikes in Iraq.[13]

Airstrikes[edit | edit source]

date Super Hornets Refuelling AEW&C
8 Oct 2014 An F/A-18F Super Hornet dropped two bombs which destroyed an isolated building which ISIL was using as a command and control centre.[14]
14 Oct 2014 Two pairs of F/A-18Fs conducted combat missions and attacked ISIL military equipment and facilities in Northern Iraq. The aircraft exited the target area safely and returned to base. The first pair was supported by a coalition refuelling aircraft. The second pair was supported by the Australian Air Task Group (ATG)'s KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport.[15]
20 Oct 2014 Two F/A-18F Super Hornets conducted a combat mission over Iraq. One of the aircraft targeted and destroyed an ISIL facility. The aircraft were refuelled by the ATG's KC-30A and a coalition aircraft. In a first for Operation OKRA, the ATG's KC-30A conducted two eight hour refuelling missions within a 24-hour period. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail also conducted a command and control mission and returned safely to base.
22 Oct 2014 Two pairs of Super Hornets conducted separate combat missions over Iraq, with both pairs attacking ISIL targets. The RAAF KC-30A refuelled both Australian and coalition aircraft. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail conducted a command and control mission.
23 Oct 2014 Two pairs of Super Hornets conducted separate combat missions. No targets were attacked during the first mission; the second pair attacked ISIL targets. The RAAF KC-30A refuelled the aircraft and coalition aircraft; the aircraft were also refuelled by a coalition aircraft. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail conducted a command and control mission.
24 Oct 2014 A pair of Super Hornets attacked an ISIL target. The aircraft were refuelled by a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail conducted a command and control mission.
26 Oct 2014 Two pairs of Super Hornets conducted separate combat missions. The first pair attacked an ISIL target. The second pair did not attack any targets. Australia's KC-30A refuelled the RAAF and coalition aircraft. The RAAF Super Hornets were also refuelled by a coalition aircraft. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail conducted a command and control mission.
2 Nov 2014 Two pairs of Super Hornets conducted separate combat missions. The second pair attacked ISIL targets. The RAAF KC-30A refuelled the Super Hornets. The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail conducted a command and control mission.

Army contribution[edit | edit source]

In September 2014, the Australian Army deployed a Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) of approximately 200 personnel to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for operations to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces.[16] The soldiers were expected to be deployed to Iraq when a legal framework covering their presence in the country is agreed between the Australian and Iraqi Governments.[17] The majority of the SOTG is made up of Charlie Company, 2nd Commando Regiment. Charlie Company is one of the most highly trained units in the Australian Army, being able to be rapidly deployed into any combat zone. Some of the members of Charlie Company are counter-terrorism specialists.[18] The SOTG began moving into Iraq in early November.[19] As the Iraqi Government would not agree to sign a status of forces agreement to prevent the soldiers from being prosecuted, they entered the country using diplomatic passports instead. Iraq has agreed to grant the soldiers immunity from local laws under this arrangement, though they will be prosecuted in Australia in the event of any misconduct.[20]

The role of the SOTG is to provide training to Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service, and personnel were stationed at the service's Counter-Terrorism Academy and Counter-Terrorism Training unit in January 2015. The Counter-Terrorism Service includes two brigades of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, which fought well against ISIS during 2014 at the cost of heavy casualties. However, members of the service have also been accused of killing prisoners and committing human rights violations. SOTG personnel are required to report any human rights violations they become aware of.[21]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "RAAF mission against ISIS: Pilots did not drop bombs because of collateral damage risk". News.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/national/raaf-mission-against-isis-pilots-did-not-drop-bombs-because-of-collateral-damage-risk/story-fncynjr2-1227083688464. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  2. "Operation OKRA". Defence Operations: Iraq. Department of Defence. http://www.defence.gov.au/Operations/Okra/. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  3. Grubb, Ben (4 October 2014). "The man calling Australia's shots in the new Iraq war". SMH.com.au. Fairfax Media. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-man-calling-australias-shots-in-the-new-iraq-war-20141004-10qbff.html. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  4. "Change of Australian military command in the Middle East". Department of Defence. 12 December 2014. http://news.defence.gov.au/2014/12/12/change-of-australian-military-command-in-the-middle-east/. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  5. "RAAF Air Task Group Arrives in Middle East". Department of Defence. 24 September 2014. http://news.defence.gov.au/2014/09/24/raaf-air-task-group-arrives-in-middle-east/. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  6. Bree, Max (9 October 2014). "Largest group in decades". Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force. Canberra: Department of Defence. p. 3. ISSN 1329-8909. http://airforcenews.realviewdigital.com/#folio=2. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  7. "Australian Air Task Group commences operational missions over Iraq". Department of Defence. 2 October 2014. http://news.defence.gov.au/2014/10/02/australian-air-task-group-commences-operational-missions-over-iraq/. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  8. Katharine Murphy, deputy political editor (2014-08-14). "Australian troops complete first humanitarian mission in northern Iraq". The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/14/australian-troops-complete-first-humanitarian-mission-in-northern-iraq. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  9. Wroe, David (31 August 2014). "SAS to Protect Crews on Arms Drops in Iraq". Sydney: Fairfax Media. ISSN 0312-6315. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/sas-to-protect-crews-on-arms-drops-in-iraq-20140831-10aoyl.html#ixzz3Cz1PIUPK. 
  10. "ADF delivers fourth arms shipment to Iraq". Department of Defence. 17 September 2014. http://news.defence.gov.au/2014/09/17/adf-delivers-fourth-arms-shipment-to-iraq/. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  11. "ADF delivers fifth shipment to Iraq". Department of Defence. 26 September 2014. http://news.defence.gov.au/2014/09/26/adf-delivers-fifth-shipment-to-iraq/. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  12. "Second RAAF Air Task Group to deploy to the Middle East". Australian Aviation. 6 January 2015. http://australianaviation.com.au/2015/01/second-raaf-air-task-group-to-deploy-to-the-middle-east/. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  13. "Press conference with Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston, who gives an update of Australian operations in Iraq". Transcript. Department of Defence. 12 January 2015. http://news.defence.gov.au/2015/02/12/press-conference-with-chief-of-joint-operations-vice-admiral-david-johnston-who-gives-an-update-of-australian-operations-in-iraq/. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  14. Wroe, David (10 October 2014). "Australian bombs dropped on Islamic State building". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-bombs-dropped-on-islamic-state-building-20141009-113t2z.html. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  15. http://www.defence.gov.au/Operations/Okra/atg.asp
  16. "Support to Iraq". Canberra: Department of Defence. 9 October 2014. p. 3. ISSN 0729-5685. http://www.defence.gov.au/news/armynews/editions/1338/1338.pdf. 
  17. Brissenden, Michael. "Deadly Australian air strikes dent IS morale in Iraq: Rear Admiral David Johnston". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-17/deadly-australian-air-strikes-dent-is-morale-in-iraq/5821888. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  18. Brissenden, Michael (1 November 2014). "Elite Australian commandos still waiting for green light to go into Iraq". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-01/australian-commando-unit-waits-in-uae-for-word-to-go-into-iraq/5858272. Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  19. Griffiths, Emma (11 November 2014). "Australian troops 'moving into locations' in Iraq to assist with fight against Islamic State". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-11/government-left-open-possibility-of-sending-more-troops-to-iraq/5881640. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  20. Toohey, Paul (14 November 2014). "Australian special forces enter Iraq with diplomatic passports". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/australian-special-forces-enter-iraq-with-diplomatic-passports/story-e6frg6n6-1227122337721. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  21. Dorling, Philip; Wroe, David (10 January 2015). "Australian special forces work with Iraqi security group accused of killing prisoners, torture". The Canberra Times. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-special-forces-work-with-iraqi-security-group-accused-of-killing-prisoners-torture-20150109-12kuou.html. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 

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