Speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia would begin participating in US-led military missions against the militant group 'Islamic State' (IS) from Wednesday.
Australia would contribute two unmanned aircraft - a E-7A Wedgetail early warning and control plane and a KC-30A refueling plane, which would operate from al-Minhad Air Base outside of Dubai.
In September, 600 troops and combat fighter planes from Australia were sent to the United Arab Emirates to prepare to join the US-coalition against IS. However, Australia has not yet fully committed to engaging in combat missions.
"We have not yet made a final decision to commit our forces to combat but Australian aircraft from today will start flying over Iraq in support of allied operations," Abbott said Wednesday in Parliament. "Australian air strikes await final clearances from the Iraqi government and a further decision by our own."
US-led forces have been bombing IS targets in Iraq since August, expanding the campaign to Syria last week. IS fighters have swept through Sunni areas in both countries, killing prisoners, chasing out Kurds and ordering Shiites and non-Muslims to convert, or die.
mz/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)