Australian contribution to the 1991 Gulf War

Australia was a member of the international coalition which contributed military forces to the 1991 Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm. More than 1800 ADF personnel were deployed to the Persian Gulf from August 1990 to September 1991. In August 1990, two frigates HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Darwin and the replenishment ship HMAS Success left for the Persian Gulf. HMAS Success had no air defences so the Army 16th Air Defence Regiment deployed on this ship. On 3 December 1990, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney (IV) relieved HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Darwin. On 26 January 1991, HMAS Westralia replaced HMAS Success. A Navy Clearance diving team was also deployed for explosive ordnance and demolition tasks. Australian ships were in danger of mines and possible air attacks. In a number of recorded incidents, HMAS Brisbane encountered free floating mines, on one occasion narrowly avoiding a collision. Both HMA Ships Brisbane and Sydney encountered significant air threat warnings from Iran and Iraq throughout the initial period of the commencement of the Desert Storm Campaign. The detection of land based silkworm missiles from Iran throughout the campaign also added to the challenges for both crews as well as the multi-national Naval Forces.

In addition to the naval contingent, Australian service personnel were seconded to British and United States ground troops.[1] The government position was not to deploy ground troops with "no boots in the sand". The RAAF deployed a unit of photo-interpreters which were based in Saudi Arabia.[1] Four medical teams were also deployed.[1] At the end of Desert Storm, 75 ADF personnel were deployed to Northern Iraq to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid to the Kurds living in the UN-declared exclusion zone.[1]

Whilst there were no casualties of ADF personnel during the Gulf War, a significant number of Australian Gulf War veterans appear to continue to suffer from Gulf War illness.[2]

HMAS Sydney 1991
HMAS Sydney in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Note radar absorbent matting fitted to the side of the ship.


Australia's contribution to the 1991 Gulf War centred on a Naval Task Group which formed part of the multi-national fleet in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, under Operation Damask. In addition, medical teams were deployed aboard a US hospital ship and a navy Clearance diving team took part in de-mining Kuwait's port facilities at the end of the war. Following the end of the war Australia deployed a medical unit on Operation Habitat to northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort.[1][3] While there were proposals to deploy other units (including an apparent US request for RF-111 reconnaissance aircraft) these proposals came to nothing and no Australian Army or Royal Australian Air Force combat units were deployed.

The Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) did not take part in the war.[3][4] In 1993, a book was published on a British SAS patrol Bravo Two Zero with an Australian member using the pseudonym of Stan.[5] Subsequent media reports stated that SASR soldiers on exchange took part in the war, however, in 2005 it was disclosed that Stan was a former Army Reserve Commando who had joined the British Army.[6][4] As the SASR had long established exchange programmes, a soldier may have served with British or United States special forces units. The total number of personnel deployed between August 1990 and September 1991 was 1,800.[7] In the aftermath of the conflict, Royal Australian Navy warships continued to be deployed to the Persian Gulf periodically to enforce sanctions against Iraq until the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[8]

Royal Australian Navy

Operation Damask I (6 September 1990 – 3 December 1990)

Task Group 627.4

Operation Damask II (3 December 1990 – 28 May 1991)

Task Group 627.4

Operation Damask III (13 June 1991 – 4 September 1991)

Operation Damask VI (October 1992 – April 1993)

Other Deployments

  • Logistic Support Element (Muscat, Oman)
    • Logistic Support Detachment Bahrain
    • Logistic Support Detachment Dubai

Task Group Medical Support Elements (served aboard USS Comfort)

  • TGMSE 1 (13 September 1990 – 4 January 1991)
  • TGMSE 2 (31 December 1990 – 15 March 1991)
  • TGMSE 3 (13 January 1991 – 15 March 1991)

Clearance Diving Team 3 operated in the theatre from 27 January 1991 to 10 May 1991. It was involved in mine clearing operations in Kuwait from 5 March to 19 April 1991.

Royal Australian Air Force

RAAF C-130 aircraft from No. 36 and No. 37 Squadrons provided a shuttle service between Australia and the Persian Gulf. Boeing 707 aircraft from No. 33 Squadron and VIP aircraft from No. 34 Squadron also flew to the Middle East. A small team of RAAF photo-interpreters was posted to Saudi Arabia. Intelligence analysts from the RAAF and Defence Intelligence Organisation were also posted to Saudi Arabia.[1]

Australian Army

The only formed Australian Army units to participate in the Persian Gulf War were anti-aircraft missile teams from the 16th Air Defence Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery who, equipped with RBS 70 missiles, provided point defence to HMAS Success and HMAS Westralia. A small number of Australians (mainly Army officers) on exchange to US and British units saw action in the Persian Gulf with those units.[1]

Operation Provide Comfort/Operation Habitat (16 May 1991 – 30 June 1991)

The Australian Army and Air Force provided 75 personnel to Operation Habitat, the Australian contribution to Operation Provide Comfort, the delivery of humanitarian aid to Kurds living in the UN-declared exclusion zone in northern Iraq.[1][7]

  • Australian Medical Unit (Gir-I-Pit, Northern Iraq)
    • Headquarters and Administrative Support Group
    • Four Medical Teams
    • Dental Team
    • Preventative Medical Section
    • Engineer Section


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Iraq: The First Gulf War 1990–1991". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  2. ^ Sim, Malcolm; et al. (2015). Australian Gulf War Veterans' Follow Up Health Study: Technical Report 2015 (PDF). Monash University.
  3. ^ a b Horner, David (2009). In Action with the SAS. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781741755527.
  4. ^ a b Bonner, Stuart; Macklin, Robert (2014). Redback One: Explosive Action in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan: The True Story of an Australian SAS Hero. Sydney, New South Wales: Hachette Australia. ISBN 9780733630606.
  5. ^ McNab, Andy (1993). Bravo Two Zero. Great Britain: Bantom Press. ISBN 0-552-14127-5.
  6. ^ Collins, Peter (2005). Strike Swiftly: The Australian Commando Story. Sydney: Watermark Press. ISBN 094928470X.
  7. ^ a b "1980s, 90s and Gulf War". History. Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Working Paper No. 18: Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005" (PDF). Sea Power Centre Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  9. ^ Perryman, John. "Ships Named Canberra". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 29 July 2013.


  • Hodgman (editor), Commander J.P. (1991). Australia's Navy 1991–92. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian Department of Defence.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Holmes, Tony. "Tiger Squadron". Australian Aviation. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Phantom Media (July 2005/No. 218).
  • Horner, David (1992). The Gulf Commitment: The Australian Defence Force's First War. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
  • Horner, David (1995). The Gunners: A History of Australian Artillery. Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.
  • Horner, David (2011). Australia and the New World Order: From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement: 1988–1991. The Official History of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-76587-9.
  • Londey, Peter (2004). Other People's Wars: A History of Australian Peacekeeping. Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.
  • "Chapter 2: Australian involvement in the Gulf War". Australian Gulf War Veterans' Health Study 2003. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2003. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2006.
Australian Defence Force

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and a number of 'tri-service' units. The ADF has a strength of just under 80,000 full-time personnel and active reservists, and is supported by the Department of Defence and several other civilian agencies.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the Australian Government established the armed services as separate organisations. Each service had an independent chain of command. In 1976, the government made a strategic change and established the ADF to place the services under a single headquarters. Over time, the degree of integration has increased and tri-service headquarters, logistics and training institutions have supplanted many single-service establishments.

The ADF is technologically sophisticated but relatively small. Although the ADF's 58,206 full-time active-duty personnel and 21,694 active reservists make it the largest military in Oceania, it is smaller than most Asian military forces. Nonetheless, the ADF is supported by a significant budget by worldwide standards and is able to deploy forces in multiple locations outside Australia.

Coalition of the Gulf War

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, a coalition of 35 countries, led by the United States, fought Iraq in the Gulf War from 1990–1991.

General Dynamics F-111C

The General Dynamics F-111C (nicknamed "Pig") is a variant of the F-111 Aardvark medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft, developed by General Dynamics to meet Australian requirements. The design was based on the F-111A model but included longer wings and strengthened undercarriage. The Australian government ordered 24 F-111Cs to equip the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1963, but the aircraft were not delivered until 1973 because of long-running technical problems. During 1979 and 1980 four of these aircraft were converted to the RF-111C reconnaissance variant. Four ex-United States Air Force (USAF) F-111As were purchased by Australia and converted to F-111C standard in 1982 to replace F-111Cs destroyed during accidents. Australia also operated 15 F-111Gs between 1993 and 2007, mainly for conversion training. The RAAF retired its remaining F-111Cs in December 2010. In Australian military and aviation circles, the F-111 Aardvark was affectionately known as the "Pig", due to its long snout and terrain-following ability.The F-111Cs gave the RAAF a powerful strike capability but were never used in combat. The aircraft went through modernisation programs in the 1980s and 1990s, and the RAAF acquired improved weapons to maintain their ability to penetrate hostile airspace. Despite this, by the 2000s the F-111Cs were becoming outdated and expensive to maintain, leading to a decision to retire them in 2010 rather than 2020 as originally planned. The F-111s were replaced by 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets pending delivery of F-35 Lightning IIs in development.

HMAS Success (OR 304)

HMAS Success (OR 304) is a Durance-class multi-product replenishment oiler that previously served in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Built by Cockatoo Docks & Engineering Company in Sydney, Australia, during the 1980s, she is the only ship of the class to be constructed outside France, and the only one to not originally serve in the Marine Nationale (French Navy). The ship was part of the Australian contribution to the 1991 Gulf War, and was deployed to East Timor in response to incidents in 1999 and 2006. The ship was fitted with a double hull during the first half of 2011, to meet International Maritime Organization standards.


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