Australia in anti-ISIS flights over Iraq, will join airstrikes
PM Tony Abbott announces air force deployed Thursday to assist anti-ISIS coalition forces
Australian military aircraft have conducted their first operational, non-combat flights over Iraq as part of a U.S. led coalition to fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.
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Four Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornets, a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport refuelling aircraft, and an E-7A Wedgetail Early Warning and Control Aircraft took to the air Thursday before Australia announced the move.
Australian special forces troops will be deployed in Iraq to assist in the fight against Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday, and its aircraft will also join U.S.-led coalition strikes.
The United States has been bombing Islamic State and other groups in Syria for almost two weeks with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighbouring Iraq since August. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria.
Last month, Abbott sent aircraft and 600 personnel to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for joining the coalition. He has since said it was likely Australian aircraft would join the strikes to combat Islamic State, which he described as a "murderous death cult."
While the involvement of Australian aircraft had been flagged, the use of Australian troops on the ground in Iraq was not as widely anticipated.
Abbott said the cabinet has authorized the deployment of Australian special forces into Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi forces, subject to legal documentation.
The Australian contingent in the UAE is made up of eight Super Hornet fighter jets, an early warning and control aircraft, an aerial refuelling aircraft, along with 400 air force personnel and 200 special force soldiers.