RAAF Centenary Timeline
Peacekeeping, Iraq and Afghanistan – 1975-2009
Following the Vietnam War, RAAF aircraft and crew were used in a number of peacekeeping missions, most notably in East Timor in 1999. Australian combat aircraft were not used again until the Iraq War in 2003. Fourteen F/A-18 Hornets from No.75 Squadron RAAF operated from Al Udeid air base near Doha, escorting and protecting airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.[i] The squadron was later used to attack Iraqi ground forces with laser-guided bombs, targeting tanks, trucks and artillery.[ii] No. 75 Squadron flew a total of 350 sorties and dropped 122 bombs in Iraq.[iii]
The Australian Hornets out on the flight line 7:30am – Diego Garcia
Also part of the RAAF contingent in Iraq were two P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.[iv] The Orions flew long 12-hour night missions tracking vessels to watch for smugglers and guard against the dangers of suicide boats packed with explosives.[v] The Hercules aircraft were mainly used for supply and equipment transportation, and later humanitarian aid in Baghdad.[vi]
Leading Aircraftwoman Rebecca Miller signals to the crew of a P-3 Orion as it prepares to take off
On 29 May 2007, Darwin based 114 Mobile Control Unit arrived in Afghanistan.[vii] A further 75 RAAF personnel deployed with the AN/TPS-77 radar to “assume control of a portion of Afghan operational air space”.[viii] These operations ceased in 2009, replaced by a detachment of Heron Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in 2010.[ix]
Hornet pilots waiting to fly their last mission of the war – David Dare Parker
The latest deployment of aircraft, two AP-3C Orion maritime patrol planes, were sent to the southern Philippines in response to the Marawi crisis in 2017.[x]
[i] Australian War Memorial 2020, Australians in Iraq 2003: The RAAF in Iraq, [online] Available at: <https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/iraq/raaf#:~:text=The%20RAAF%20in%20Iraq%20Fourteen%20F%2FA-18%20Hornet%20aircraft,aircraft%20and%20tanker%20aircraft%20used%20for%20air-to-air%20refuelling>.
[iii] Tony Holmes, 'RAAF Hornets at War' in Australian Aviation, January/February 2006, No. 224. pp. 38–39.
[iv] Australian War Memorial 2020, Australians in Iraq 2003: The RAAF in Iraq, [online] Available at: <https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/iraq/raaf#:~:text=The%20RAAF%20in%20Iraq%20Fourteen%20F%2FA-18%20Hornet%20aircraft,aircraft%20and%20tanker%20aircraft%20used%20for%20air-to-air%20refuelling>.
[vii] Brangwin, N, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section with assistance from
Ann Rann, Science Technology, Environment and Resources Section, ‘Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan since 2001: a chronology’, Parliament of Australia, [online] Available at: <https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/1011/MilitaryInvolvementAfghanistan>.
[x] Gribbin, C 2017, ‘Australian spy planes to fly over southern Philippines in Islamic State fight, ABC News, [online] Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-23/australian-spy-planes-to-fly-over-philippines-in-is-fight/8645086>.