9 December 2014
One of Australia's contributions to the Coalition air campaign against ISIL is the Air Task Group's E-7A Early Warning and Control 'Wedgetail' aircraft.
Deployed on Operation OKRA, the E-7A Wedgetail aircraft missions entail controlling the 'battle management areas’ that cover the majority of the airspace above Iraq.
Commander of Australia's Air Task Group Air Commodore Steve Roberton praised the skills of the crews who regularly manage over 80 combat aircraft during a single mission.
"Having responsibility for the command and control of all Coalition aircraft over a very large airspace is no small undertaking," Air Commodore Roberton said.
"The E-7A crews, their maintenance and other support staff are doing an outstanding job."
The missions are lengthy, with an average flying time of over 13 hours.
A Surveillance Control Officer deployed with the Air Task Group, Flying Officer B [name withheld] described the endurance missions over Iraq which involved a further challenge in addition to managing dozens of aircraft.
"As you can appreciate with any large scale Coalition effort, we are controlling aircraft from many nations so the language barrier can be a significant challenge," FLGOFF B said.
"The cultural and language differences are important factors affecting the way we operate.
"We have adjusted the way we communicate with the aircrew from all of the different nations and we’ve learned a lot of about how our partner countries operate too."
"It is quite a big difference to what we are used to in Australia. But our training has been validated by the ability of our 'switched on' operators to overcome these barriers," he said.