Australia’s F/A-18 pilots defied the orders of American commanders and refused to drop their bombs on up to 40 missions during the invasion of Iraq, it can now be revealed.
In a remarkable account of how our airmen applied Australian rules of engagement, an RAAF pilot has told The Sun-Herald each of the 14 RAAF Hornet pilots aborted three to four bombing runs because intelligence given at pre-flight briefings did not concur with what they found at the target.
Last night, The Sun-Herald could not confirm whether or not American field commanders raised objections about the Australian pilots’ actions, nor if US pilots later carried out the bombing runs themselves.
But Australia’s Defence Force chief, General Peter Cosgrove backed the pilots’ action, and said there were no recriminations.
Squadron Leader Daryl Pudney last week described how he and other Australian F/A-18 pilots were forced to weigh up the risk of civilian casualties in a split second before dropping their bombs.
He said pilots broke off many missions after they saw the target and decided there was not a valid military reason to drop their bombs.
What can I say? The implications for more horrible American intelligence and avoidable civilian casualty repercussions are enormous. What was the ratio of American bombing missions to Australian ones? How many American pilots aborted bombing runs to spare civilians?