UNEF Sinai, 1976-79

On 10 June 1976 a 16-man forward party left Canberra to prepare for the arrival at Ismailia, Egypt, of the air unit committed by Australia to the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai. Australia committed an air unit committed to the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai on 10 June 1976. The unit, referred to as AUSTAIR, was required to help monitor the 300-kilometre-long buffer zone separating Egyptian and Israeli forces after the 1973 war fought along the Suez Canal. At full strength, AUSTAIR comprised four Iroquois helicopters operated by 13 officers and 32 airmen––all drawn from the RAAF except four aircrew and maintenance personnel from the RAN. The first helicopter was flown from No 5 Squadron at RAAF Base Fairbairn by C-130 on 8 July, with the rest following in further C-130 flights that month, and the first mission in support of UNEF was flown on 1 August. The unit remained in Sinai for three years before being withdrawn in mid 1979.

Multi-National Force Sinai, 1982-86

The Rotary Wing Aviation Unit of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) body (to which the RAAF contributed eight of the ten Iroquois helicopters required) flew its first mission from El Gorah on 24 March 1982. El Gorah was the unit’s operating base in the north-eastern Sinai, situated about 20 kilometres from the Mediterranean coast. The US-led MFO was established in 1981 to monitor arrangements for the return of Egyptian territory in the Sinai which Israel had occupied since 1967. After Australia agreed to take part, the RAAF helicopters were delivered to Ashdod, Israel, by the heavy landing ship HMAS Tobruk on 19 March 1982, and the 89 personnel drawn from the RAAF, RAN and Australian Army arrived by RAAF B-707 transport the next day. On 21 March, the aircraft flew to El Gorah.