The Royal Australian Air Force’s recent deployment to support Operation Inherent Resolve operations in the Middle East represents a major leap forward in Australia’s ability to contribute to coalition airpower operations abroad, said Air Commodore Gary Martin, the RAAF’s air attaché at its embassy in Washington D.C., during AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., last week. This past September, the RAAF dispatched a self-contained expeditionary force to support OIR, which was the result of the RAAF reforming how it deploys airpower abroad, Martin said. “In two weeks, we had an entire package move out,” which included E-7 AWACS, six F/A-18 Super Hornets, two C-130s, and a KC-30 tanker, he said. The aircraft have since operated both as a package, and in support of coalition operations. Martin said the RAAF KC-30 has flown extensive aerial refueling operations for US and allied aircraft since deploying. Thanks to lessons learned from the last 13 years of combat, as well as working with USAF’s international affairs shop to build key capabilities, the RAAF has gone from fielding “niche capabilities” to deploying force packages “all on its own steam,” Martin said. “This enables us to assist those far and near us,” he said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.