Air Task Group's Strike element rotate after a highly successful deployment
2 February 2016
Over 80 personnel from the Australian Air Task Group (ATG) Strike Element have headed home after completing a three month deployment, handing over the responsibility of supporting, maintaining and flying the F/A-18A Hornet to the personnel of ATG Strike - Rotation Six.
Personnel from ATG Strike - Rotation Five handed over responsibilities knowing they maintained an enviable reputation and made a significant contribution to the fight against Daesh in the Middle East.
Air Task Group Strike Element Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Benjamin, said of Rotation Five's deployment had been very successful.
"The fifth rotation of the Strike Element has flown six days a week for three months," he said.
"Flying an average of 18 sorties a week, we've released over 200 weapons in Iraq and Syria in 3 months against Daesh ground targets.
"In doing so we have broken a number of ATG records."
Significant milestones achieved by Rotation 5 during their three month deployment include preparing and employing the most weapons in one calendar month, the most weapons employed in a week and the most weapons employed in a day.
These records are not just about numbers; the increased rate of effort has assisted Iraqi Forces in the liberation of the Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Ramadi, freeing the local Iraqi population from the tyranny, brutality and oppression from over a year of Daesh control.
In early December 2015 the Air Task Group successfully targeted and destroyed an oil facility, the destruction of which will limit Daesh's access to oil which it uses to support its operations in Syria and Iraq.
Wing Commander Benjamin said prior to deploying to the Middle East Region the Strike personnel participate in high intensity lead-up training.
"This allows them to refine processes and procedures, ensuring they integrate seamlessly into the Air Task Group Strike Element and deliver effective support to the Coalition air campaign," he said.
"This is on top of regular deployment preparation.
"The work-up training is scenario-based, ensuring that the maintenance team and pilots are exposed to deployment-specific challenges and operational tempo.
"This is followed by a two-week handover period in theatre which consolidates their training and finalises their integration into the Air Task Group."
Reflecting on the Christmas period, Wing Commander Benjamin said it was a unique opportunity to have an entire fighter squadron deployed over Christmas during the handover period.
"We were able to enjoy a squadron family Christmas together on operations in the Middle East, safe in the knowledge that we are and will continue to make a difference to the people of Iraq and Syria," he said.