Australia is sending Super Hornets, a tanker and an airborne early warning and control aircraft to the United Arab Emirates where they will prepare for possible use against the Islamic State.
Sep. 16, 2014 - By NIGEL PITTAWAY – Defense News
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australia is sending up to eight F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters, an Airbus KC-30 multirole tanker transport and an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Middle East this week for possible use against Islamic State forces in Iraq.
The Australian contingent will move to the United Arab Emirates where they will prepare for operations, ahead of a government decision regarding Iraq.
The move, which also includes 400 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) support personnel and 200 ground troops, was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday.
The ground troops will include Special Forces, which will be used to train Iraqi military personnel and Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
This marks the first time Australian Super Hornets have been deployed to the region since entering service in 2010, and the first time RAAF combat aircraft have deployed with both organic tanker and AEW&C support.
“The decision to prepare Australian Defence Force personnel for deployment has not been taken lightly,” Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, chief of the Australian Defence Force, said in a statement.
“This is a highly complex operating environment which continues to evolve, and we now have a significant amount of detailed planning work to undertake as we prepare for this deployment.
“Disrupting and degrading ISIL will take a comprehensive and sustained effort from the international community. If we do nothing, we risk allowing the shocking acts of ISIL to further destabilize the Middle East region and to spread beyond the Middle East region where it will pose a greater threat to Australians.”
Mark Thomson, a senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a defense think tank, says the proposed force is a credible contribution by Australia.
“This is an international effort to deal with a problem that we all share. I think from Australia’s point of view, if you look at the scale of forces that we can deploy and recognizing the RAAF is at the moment working to introduce a broad range of platforms to service, this will be a demanding deployment. But I’d say it’s a deployment which is commensurate with Australia’s interests in this issue,” he said.
“I don’t think we should underestimate what the RAAF is doing now, deploying the tankers and the AEW&C with fighters at the same time, at distance from Australia. This is a challenging exercise that they’ll undoubtedly learn a lot from.”
Thomson also said that it is difficult to estimate how long Australian forces will need to remain in the region.
“The word complex doesn’t come close to capturing the situation we’re moving into. Just looking back over the whole Iraq venture from 2002 onwards, it’s been one surprise after another and if you asked the Iraqis what was going to happen, they probably didn’t know ahead of time either,” he said.
“These things are what we as scientists call the emergent properties — there’s a complex interaction that drives the political and military situation in a certain direction, and it’s largely unpredictable ahead of time.