Six Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet jet fighters will launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets in northern Iraq within days as part of the U.S.-led coalition, officials said on Friday.

The announcement of an Australian combat role on Friday has been widely anticipated since the Super Hornets were pre-deployed to the United Arab Emirates more than two weeks ago in response to a formal request from the United States for specific contributions to the international coalition.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters that the deployment to Iraq “could be quite lengthy. Certainly, months rather than weeks.”