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

Australia was a member of the international coalition which contributed military forces to the 1991 Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm. While the Australian forces did not see combat, they did play a significant role in enforcing the sanctions put in place against Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait, as well as other small support contributions to Operation Desert Storm.


Australia's contribution to the 1991 Gulf War centred around 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 naval 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. Royal Australian Navy warships were periodically deployed to the Persian Gulf to enforce sanctions against Iraq until the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. 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. While some publications suggest that the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) took part in the war, this is not correct (though the SASR was brought to a higher state of readiness and a very small number of personnel on exchange to the British SAS saw action).

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.

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.

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

The Australian Army and Air Force provided 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]

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


  • Australian War Memorial. Gulf War 1990–1991
  • Commander J.P. Hodgman (editor) (1991). Australia's Navy 1991–92. Australian Department of Defence. Canberra.
  • Tony Holmes. ‘Tiger Squadron’ in Australian Aviation. July 2005/No. 218. Phantom Media. Canberra.
  • David Horner (1992). The Gulf Commitment. The Australian Defence Force’s First War. Melbourne University Press. Melbourne.
  • David Horner (1995). The Gunners. A History of Australian Artillery. Allen & Unwin. Sydney.
  • 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,: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-76587-9. 
  • Peter Londey (2004). Other People’s Wars. A History of Australian Peacekeeping. Allen & Unwin. Sydney.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (2003). Australian Gulf War Veterans' Health Study 2003. (specifically, Chapter 2. ‘Australian involvement in the Gulf War’)
  • Royal Australian Air Force – Gulf War and Operation Habitat
  1. John Perryman. "Ships Named Canberra". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 

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