On 2 August 1990 Iraq invaded its small neighbour Kuwait.
This action was condemned by the United Nations, and by 10 August 1990 the decision had been made to form a Multi-National Naval Force (MNNF) to serve in the Persian Gulf. The task of this force was initially to enforce UN sponsored sanctions against Iraq.
The first Australian vessels committed, the frigates HMAS Darwin and HMAS Adelaide, sailed from Sydney on 13 August 1990, followed shortly afterward by the replenishment tanker HMAS Success. Because her integral air defence capability was inadequate, HMAS Success was allocated eight soldiers equipped with the RBS70 anti-aircraft weapon system from the Australian Army's 16th Air Defence Regiment.
On arrival in the Gulf in early September 1990, the Australian element of the MNNF immediately commenced operations in the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz where the two frigates were involved, with allied forces, in the interception of vessels proceeding into the Persian Gulf.
On 29 November 1990 the UN, in the face of Iraq's unyielding attitude, passed Resolution 678 which gave authority to member states "to use all necessary means" against Iraq unless it withdrew from Kuwait by 15 January 1991.
For the next phase of the operation the three RAN vessels in the MNNF were replaced, in early December 1990, by the destroyer HMAS Brisbane, the frigate HMAS Sydney and the largest ship in the RAN's fleet, the 40,870 tonne replenishment ship HMAS Westralia. The Australian vessels entered the Persian Gulf as part of the largest fleet of warships since World War 2. Deployment in the Gulf was necessary to support the huge allied ground force now assembling in Saudi Arabia. Brisbane and Sydney were employed as part of the fleet's anti-air warfare screen.
Operation Desert Storm, the allied operation designed to force the Iraqis out of Kuwait, started its offensive phase early in the morning of 17 January 1991 with massive air attacks on selected targets.
On 25 January 1991 HMAS Success departed for Australia; she was replaced by HMAS Westralia on 3 February. A RAN Clearance Diving Team arrived in the operational area on 30 January 1991 and was employed in preparation for a planned amphibious assault on the beaches of Kuwait. It subsequently cleared mines from ports and the open sea, and surveyed wrecked shipping.
The ground phase opened on 24 February 1991 and met with immediate and overwhelming success, defeating the Iraqi forces and forcing them to evacuate Kuwait by 28 February 1991.
During Operation Desert Storm 40 members of the Australian Task Group Medical Support Element served in the US hospital ship USNS Comfort. In addition, a number of Australians of all three services served in the ground phase of the operation because the US and UK units to which they were posted were involved. Throughout Australia's involvement, the RAAF provided air transport support.
Although hostilities had ceased with the capitulation of the Iraqi government, within Iraq turmoil erupted with a revolt of a dissident Kurdish minority. The Iraqis put down the revolt which resulted in a massive flight of Kurdish refugees. In a response to calls for help, Australia sent, on 16 May 1991, a 75-strong Army contingent of medical, dental, preventative medicine and field engineer teams.
Australia's involvement in the aftermath of the Gulf War continued until 1993, primarily in sanctions enforcement duty.
The above adapted from George Odger's Diggers - The Australian Army, Navy and Air Force in Eleven Wars from 6 June 1944 to 1994.