3 Squadron STORIES

3 Squadron BOOKS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search

3 Squadron in Operation OKRA, 2016.

Below are some highlights from the book "ARMAGEDDON & OKRA", particularly relating to the involvement of 3 Squadron RAAF in combat operations in 2016.

In this book, members of the 3SQN “Family” get several cameos: 

- Mike KITCHER and Terry VAN HAREN both did stints in the Commander’s role for the Australian Air Task Group. 

- Geoff BROWN was the Chief of Air Force in 2014 and travelled to the theatre to scope the operation, before our Govt declared their commitment. 

- From 2014 to 2016, Joe IERVASI was Director-General/Air back in Australia and was intimately involved on the top-level clearance of OKRA missions.  (And Joe also famously hitched a ride on his own tanker on 3SQN’s 100th birthday - 19/9/2016 - to check out the view over the theatre!) 

- Matt HARPER also gets a brief mention, at that time piloting a Super Hornet.

RAAF involvement in OKRA lasted 3½ years and in 2016, (the year this book describes as “the height of operations against ISIL”) 3SQN provided two 3-monthly half-squadron “rotations”. 

Six Classic Hornet aircraft were maintained on operations.  (These planes were “pooled” from available RAAF resources in Australia, so the heraldry painted on the airframes didn’t necessarily match the true identity of the operating squadron.) 

WGCDR Johnny HALY was the man who took 3SQN into its first “hot war” in 56 years (since the “Malayan Emergency”, 1960).  The conditions were HOT in more ways than one, and this book has several perceptive comments about Johnny H’s leadership: 

“The weather had a real effect on air and maintenance operations… No.3 Squadron crews rotated into the strike element as spring gave way to summer.  The new maintenance staff were forced to acclimatise to the harsh conditions. 

A quiet and thoroughly focused Queenslander, Haly had been working in a staff role at Headquarters Air Combat Group back in Australia.  Shortly afterwards he had been posted to undertake command of No.3 Squadron.  With this 'insider' knowledge, Haly knew the rotation schedule for the deployment for each fast jet squadron.  This gave him time to prepare for his role on operations… 

Haly understood that the close air support and limited strike role over Iraq and Syria encompassed a relatively narrow sub-set of the air combat role.  This enabled him to use lessons from earlier rotations and employ his own experience to focus specifically on what his strike element would be doing when it arrived in-theatre.
Haly and his unit executives paid attention to ensuring that his crews understood the unique rules of engagement in-theatre, and that they practiced the types of close air support that they would soon undertake for real.  This required the strike aviators to refine their use of airborne sensors and communication processes with those in combat on the ground.

…In the heat of Summer, Wing Commander Haly and his Engineering executive paid particular attention to the welfare of their technical personnel, and went to great lengths to ensure that all personnel adhered to the mandated heat management policies for the group; these policies dictated how long personnel could operate in the extreme temperatures on the flight line and in the ordnance preparation facilities.  The personnel used “ice vests” - literally jackets filled with fluid that were frozen to enable the wearer to have a degree of comfort - when loading and maintaining an F/A-18.  These vests worked for a short period, though in the oppressive heat the frozen liquid melted quickly.  To alleviate the situation, the TU630 commander, Group Captain Brendan Rogers, was instrumental in setting up air-conditioned maintenance tents that could be used for some aspects of the strike element servicing regimen.  The tents were erected by airfield engineers after Air Commodore Martin directly engaged his US counterpart to smooth the way for their construction on base.  The tent proved to be a boon…”

Extracts from: "ARMAGEDDON & OKRA"  - published 2020, RAAF History & Heritage Branch.

3 Squadron STORIES

3 Squadron BOOKS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search