CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar --- Australian naval gunfire destroyed Iraqi coastal defensive positions, an artillery battery and bunkers overnight, said Brigadier Maurie McNarn, commander of Australian forces in the Middle East.
The engagement against the artillery battery and bunkers "lasted about 30 minutes, and some 46 rounds were fired," McNarn said at a press briefing here today.
Aussie warships are supporting coalition forces, which include British Royal Marine Commandos advancing north on the Al Faw Peninsula. The warship HMAS Anzac used its main armament -- a forward mounted 5 inch gun -- to strike the positions.
"Australia's contribution to the coalition, while a niche force, is designed to be potent, effective and leading edge," McNarn said.
The Aussie's involvement to disarm Iraq is known as Operation Falconer, and includes a fighting force of more than 2,000 Australian Defense Force personnel.
The Aussie maritime force is commanded by Capt. Peter Jones onboard the command ship HMAS Kanimbla. Captain Jones' headquarters includes United Kingdom staff and Kuwati and U.S. liaison officers. He commands a mixture of Australian, U.S. and U.K warships.
Rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) are assigned to the maritime force to conduct intercept missions. Brigadier McNarn said intercept missions have been quite successful in seizing mines in the waters near southern Iraq.
The Special Forces task group assigned to the operation includes a squadron from the Special Air Service Regiment, commandos, Chinook CH-47 helicopters and an incident response team.
The task group is operating "deep inside Iraq," McNarn said. "It is integrated closely to the coalition effort and is performing its primary role of long-range reconnaissance," he said.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said many areas in Iraq are under coalition control. Special operation forces from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States "are about their business," he said.
"From left to right and top to bottom; in the west and also in the north," Franks said, "they have accomplished some wonderful things. They are operating in small teams; they're very, very mobile and they're doing for us just exactly what we want to have them do."
Members of the Australian task group have been in contact with enemy forces on several occasions, McNarn said. He cited one incident in which Special Forces medics stopped to render medical assistance to two wounded Iraqi soldiers before continuing on with their mission.
Yesterday, Australian Special Forces called in an air strike on an enemy installation that appears to have contained missile handling equipment, Australian Defense officials said.
An Australian squadron of F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft is deployed to the Persian Gulf region for Operation Falconer, and commenced operations over Iraq from the first day of the conflict.
On the issue of command and control, McNarn said Australian forces are closely integrated with U.S. and British forces, "but Australian forces remain at all times under Australian command."