On Oct. 2, the Royal Australian Air Force deployed 400 people and eight warplanes—six F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7 radar plane and a KC-30 tanker—to the Middle East to join the growing, U.S.-led coalition targeting Islamic State militants.
The tanker and radar plane began flying immediately from the United Arab Emirates, supporting coalition jets striking militants in northwest Iraq.
Three days later, with the Australian government’s belated approval, the Super Hornets flew their first combat mission, hauling precision-guided bombs on a fruitless, six-hour hunt for Islamist forces somewhere in the Iraqi desert.
Military photographers documented the uneventful sorties.
“What we have seen from ISIS over the last week or so is that they’ve made themselves a much harder target,” former Australian army chief Peter Leahy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“They’ve dispersed,” Leahy continued, “they’re adapting camouflage patterns, they’ve moved back inside the cities and getting close to the forces and holding on.”
All three Australian warplane types in the Middle East — the F/A-18F, the E-7 and the KC-30 — are brand-new, having joined the RAAF in just the last few years.
Their Oct. 5 combat debut may have been fruitless, but it sure was beautiful.