On Monday, the first successful airstrike by the Royal Australian Air Force was carried out in north-eastern Syria, destroying a personnel carrier hidden in a IS-suspected compound.
The strike was first mentioned on a daily report published by the United States Central Command. The bottom of a page dated September 15 simply reads, "the coalition nations which have conducted airstrikes in Syria include Australia…" Although tiny, this is a dramatic addition to an update page that's read the same for months.
Australian Defense Minister, Kevin Andrews, confirmed the attack this morning. "Two days ago, the Air Task Group completed its first strike against a Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Islamic State] strike in eastern Syria, destroying an armored personnel carrier," he said.
"Two of our Hornets identified the personnel carrier, which was hidden in a Daesh compound. That information was reported back to the combined operations center by our Wedgetail command and control aircraft, and upon receiving authorization to proceed, one of the Hornets employed a precision guided weapon to destroy the target."
The target in this case was an IS operated armored personnel carrier, which is similar to a tank, but with rubber tires. The Hornets refer to two of Australia's 24 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets, which are the country's go-to strike fighters, usually deployed with a range of air-to-surface missiles.
When a reporter asked Andrews why the airstrike hadn't been publicized, the Defense Minister insisted Australia doesn't have a policy of announcing daily events. "On this occasion, I was planning to make a ministerial statement, which is a six-monthly update of our operations in the Middle East and that's due today," he said.
It's unknown whether anyone was in the vehicle, but Kevin Andrews later conceded to 3AW's Neil Mitchell that, "if they were, they were certainly killed."
This comes as Australia has pledged to take an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria, as well as expanding Iraqi airstrikes across the border. At the commencement of the aid project, Tony Abbott inferred that the decision to expanded airstrikes was made with "head," while the intake of refugees was made the "heart."
When asked to describe what success looked like, Abbott admitted that installing a democracy was ambitious. "What we want throughout the Middle East is governments that do not commit genocide against their own people, nor permit terrorism against ours," he said.
Australia currently has 330 troops training in Iraq, but there is currently no plan to deploy troops to Syria. Monday's airstrike also included 15 in Iraq.