Iraqi Ground Forces Organization

Prior to the 1990 Gulf War, Iraq's total mobilized strength was believed to be more than 955,000 men (including 480,000 reserves) organized into 7 to 8 corps, and about 60 to 66 divisions/division equivalents (including Republican Guard divisions). Iraq's catastrophic losses during the war greatly reduced these numbers. Figures as to actual numbers of units and equipment within the Iraqi force structure vary, as it is difficult to determine exact numbers of equipment lost during the Gulf War.

Ground forces personnel strength was believed to be about 350,000 (including probably 50,000 Republican Guards). Published reports of the current troop strength of Iraqi ground forces are uncertain, though the total Iraqi ground forces were estimated to include 350,000 to 425,000 active-duty troops. By most accounts, the regular Army would appear to have had somewhere between 280,000 to 350,000 troops serving in 17 divisions. The Republican Guard, which was variously estimated to number between 50,000 to 80,000 men in seven divisions, acted to protect the regime from the Army.

A current estimate of Iraqi ground forces may be summarized as follows:

  • 7 Corps HQ (including 2 Republican Guard Corps)
  • 23 Armored/Mechanized/Infantry Divisions consisting of:
    3 Regular Army Armored Divisions
    3 Regular Army Mechanized Divisions
    11 Infantry Divisions
    6 Republican Guard Divisions (4 Armored/Mechanized, 2 Infantry)
  • 2 Special Forces Brigades
  • 5 Commando Brigades
  • 1 Army Aviation Command

The primary role of the Army Aviation Command (AAC) was to provide air support to the ground forces. The AAC's major subordinate elements probably included at least four wings, each with subordinate squadrons. AAC helicopter assets conducted ground attack, CAS, armed reconnaissance, troop transport, and counterinsurgency missions, and also had been used as platforms for forward observers. During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, AAC assets were employed in a night, heliborne special forces assault on key facilities in the Kuwaiti capital city. AAC also had some light, armed, fixed-wing aircraft, such as PC-7s, used for ground attack and armed reconnaissance missions. An AAC liaison officer was assigned to corps-level staffs, and an AAC wing could be placed under operational command of a corps. Air support requests probably flowed from the battalion level through brigade, division, and corps and then to the AAC wing. Tactical control of AAC aircraft was probably provided by ground-based forward air controllers and airborne controllers.

The Iraqi army was currently deployed to handle internal security rather than external conquest. About 150,000 troops; 900 tanks; 1,000 APCs; and 1,000 artillery pieces from I, II, and V Corps (consisting of 13 divisions, including one Republican Guard and three heavy regular army divisions) were positioned opposite Kurdish positions in the north. About 30,000 troops; 400 tanks; 500 APCs; and 200 artillery pieces from four Republican Guard divisions ring Baghdad, and about 70,000 troops from III and IV Corps (consisting of six divisions, including three heavy regular army divisions) faced Shi'a insurgents in the south. The army's logistical network was a shadow of former capabilities, and could no longer quickly move troops around the country.

The precise allocation of specific units to theaters was uncertain. Other estimates calculate that eleven of the regular Army divisions were deployed in northern Iraq, near the Kurdish-controlled areas, with the other six Army divisions deployed against Shiite Muslims in the south. There were conflicting reports as to the disposition of Republican Guard divisions, but most sources agree that three or four were deployed near Baghdad. The Special Republican Guard was the only armed force permitted in Baghdad.

Armor divisions had two armor and one mechanised brigade; mechanised divisions have one armor and two mechanised brigades; and the infantry divisions consisted of three infantry brigades and a tank battalion. Armor brigades consisted of three armor battalions and one mechanised battalion, while mechanised brigades consisted of have three mechanised battalions and a tank battalion. Divisions generally had four supporting artillery battalions. Iraqi divisions in the regular Army generally had 8,000-10,000 troops, with about half of the Army serving in non-divisional units. Republican Guards Divisions also had an average strength of around 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers, and apparently most RG soldiers were assigned to a division.

In theory, prior to Operation Desert Storm armor divisions consisted of 12,100 men and 245 tanks and infantry divisions had 14,100 men and 78 tanks. In practice the Iraqi army's divisions were never equal to their tables of organisation and equipment. The gap between theoretical and actual strength may have contributed to over-estimates of the strength of Iraqi forces deployed during the 1990-91 Gulf War. In any event, the War itself resulted in the destruction of roughly half the tanks and other equipment of the Army.

The basic operational level formation was the corps, which consisted of several divisions and support units. Iraqi Army divisions were of three basic types: armored, mechanized and infantry. Divisions normally consisted of three brigades, division artillery, air defense, reconnaissance, combat support and combat service support units, although temporary assignment of other units was common. Armored and mechanized divisions were triangular in organization; armored divisions had two armored brigades and a mechanized brigade, while mechanized divisions had two mechanized brigades and an armored brigade. Infantry divisions were assigned three infantry brigades and a tank battalion. Iraqi divisions had at least four artillery battalions, but often were augmented by additional battalions. Armored and mechanized brigades normally consisted of four battalions. Armored brigades had three tank and one mechanized battalions, while a mechanized brigade had three mechanized and one tank battalion.

Army Republican Guard

Armor Brigade

Armor Brigade

Mechanized Brigade

Mechanized Brigade

Infantry Brigade

Infantry Brigade

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