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Iraqi Army Air Corps

Iraqi Army Air Corps
Squadron Base Aircraft
2nd Squadron Taji UH-1H
4th Squadron Basrah Intl Mi-17
12th Squadron Taji
15th Squadron Taji Mi-17
21st Squadron Taji Bell 407
22nd Squadron Al Taqaddum Bell 206
55th Squadron Taji EC635
88th Squadron Taji SA342M
U/I Squadron Taji Mi-17
U/I Squadron Taji Mi-17
Squadron Kut Al Hayy East Mi-17
As of 31 March 2011, the Iraqi Security Forces included 2,150 troops in the Iraqi Army Air Corps [IAAC], and by 10 October 2011 the Iraq Army Air Corps had grown to 2,400 troops. This entity is a bit hard to follow for various reasons, not least of which include the fact that it is small, and is ambiously named, inviting confusion with the US Army Air Corps of the early 20th Century. The Center for Army Lessons Learned [CALL] Thesaurus indicates that the term "Iraqi Air Force" is to be used in place of "Iraqi Army Air Corps", but this is not right. It seems that at some point the Iraqi Army Air Corps was renamed the Iraqi Air Force, but that nonetheless the Iraqi Army Air Corps either remained in existence, or later reemerged as a separate entity.

The Iraqi Army Air Corps was originally created in 1981 due to a perceived lack of support to ground forces by the IQAF. Control of Iraqi helicopter assets as given to the Army. By 1987 the Army Air Corps had about 270 armed helicopters. As many as ten helicopter squadrons were operational in the Army Air Corps. The equipment of the army's air corps, like that of the other services, was primarily of Soviet manufacture. After 1980, however, in an effort to diversify its sources of advanced armaments, Iraq turned to France for attack helicopters. Between 1982 and 1987, Iraq received or ordered a variety of equipment from France, including about 100 Gazelle, Super-Frelon, and Alouette helicopters. Other attack helicopters purchased included the Soviet Hind equipped with AT-2 Swatter, and BO-105s equipped with AS-11 antitank guided weapons.

Helicopters were used extensively as gunships, troop carriers, and emergency resupply in the 1980s in the war with Iran. The helicopters proved to be better CAS platforms and were also used extensively as airborne artillery (lobbing munitions). Overall the IQAF had very little impact over the ground portion of the war with Iran, and even less impact on its two wars with America. After the defeat in 2003, the Army Air Corps was disbanded, along with the rest of the Iraqi military.

Soon thereafter, a New Iraqi Army Air Corps was formed, to focus primarily on troop and logistics movements as well as air medivac for life-threatening and casualty-producing situations. As of January 2004 the CPA was training both helicopter and transport pilots, and planned to field the first operational squadrons in the summer of 2004. At that time, there were no plans for an Iraqi Air Force, and the Iraqi Army Air Corps was the only aviation unit in post-Saddam Iraq.

A squadron of six UH-1H Iroquois helicopters was slated to become operational in July 2004 and stationed at Tadji Air Base. This fleet was to increase to sixteen Iroquois by April of 2005. Each was manned by two pilots and capable of carrying 13-troops at 120-knots over a 180-mile range. Its main tasks are border and coastal patrol, troop transport and search and rescue duties.

On 01 February 2005 Iraqi air force officials welcomed the arrival of the first two UH-1H Huey helicopters to Taji Air Base. The completely refurbished helicopters provide airlift support and important troop moving capabilities for the growing Iraqi air force command. Gifted from Jordan, this is the first of a series of scheduled deliveries to occur during the next year. A total of sixteen UH-1H aircraft were slated to arrive in Iraq by February 2006. The Iraqi flag is displayed on the fuselage of both aircraft.

According to Wing Commander Rad Greene, Royal Air Force, "It is an exciting time for the Iraqi air force as they reenter the world of rotary wing aviation." Iraqi air force officials were genuinely excited about the prospect of operating these new aircraft, Greene said. The first eight aircraft will comprise Squadron 2 and the second eight aircraft will become Squadron 4, both based at Taji.

Non-Standard Rotary Wing aircraft are any that are not part of the DoD’s U.S. inventory, these include the Mi-17, Mi-35, UH-1, MD-530F, and the AW-139 helicopters. Originally designed in the 1960s and re-designed in the 1980s, the Mi-17 is favored by many of US partner nations because of its successful track record, ease of maintenance, and excellent performance in hot and high altitude environments. Demand for this helicopter has been increasing as US partners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Hungary continue to build their military capabilities. The Russian “Hip” Mi-8 military helicopter (export version Mi-17) is one of the most produced helicopters in the world. Over 12,000 of these helicopters have been built, and over 2,800 have been exported outside of Russia and are in operation in many countries throughout the world. The Mi-17 is a twin engine multi-purpose helicopter that can carry 24 combat-equipped troops. The helicopter is produced at the Kazan helicopter plant and the Ulan-Ude Aviation plant in Russia.

In September 2004 Iraqi interim President Sheikh Ghazi Ajeel al-Yawir visited Poland and requested "the delivery of some 40 transport helicopters as quickly as possible". In December 2004 a $132 million contract was signed with Poland's defense holding company, Bumar, for 20 WSK PZL Swidnik PZL W-3WA Sokol medium twin-engine helicopters, but in February 2005 this order was from 20 to two. On 15 March 2005, the deputy director at Bumar overseeing the helicopter deal with Iraq, confirmed Iraq requested the cancellation of the contract for the 18 Polish-built Sokol helicopters, which was said to have been done at the request of U.S. advisors. Polish officials suspected that the reason for the cancellation is that American and British helicopter manufacturers were pressuring the U.S. military to force the Iraqi MOD to cancel the deal for Polish helicopters. An eventual order for a more significant number of PZL W-3 helicopters was still possible and could exceed the initial figure of 20. In 2009 both aircraft were delivered in VIP configuration to be used as the mean of transportation by president, prime minister as well as members of government. Some sources report a total of 4 W-3 on hand as of 2011, but this is poorly attested.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defence (MoD) ordered 24 second-hand Mi-17-1V (Mi-8MTV-1) helicopters in December 2004 under a contract believed to be worth US$50 million to US$60 million. They were to be delivered by November 2005. By March 2005 Bumar's partner in Russia had procured these, and Russian companies were overhauling them. Bumar expected to be prepared to deliver the first twelve overhauled aircraft in June and the final 12 in October.Iraq also ordered 10 new-build Mi-17V-5 (Mi-8MTV-5) transport helicopters in February 2005, with all 10 to be delivered by the end of August. Seven of the new helicopters were from the Kazan factory and three from Ulan Ude.

Bumar, the Polish state arms trading company, was indirectly under contract to supply the Iraqi military with a wide array of military items. Among these were 36 helicopters, 10 of which are new MI-17s (Soviet), two new Sokols (Polish), and 24 used MI-17s. The 24 used MI-17 were produced between 1978 and 1982, and the normal lifespan of this model is 20 years, making these units obsolete. Bumar countered that the Polish military in Iraq uses MI-17s that over 35 years old.

The contractual relationship was as follows: Spark (Russian supplier) to Bumar to Al-Ain Al-Jaria (The Flowing Eye, a Baghdad based intermediary) to the Iraqi MOD. The Iraqi Air Force had no idea why The Flowing Eye was ever involved in the contracting process, and resented the fact that their Air Force had to work through two intermediate entities. In negotiations in December 2005 the Iraqis stressed the fact that the original contract was signed by wanted men, and contrasted the ephemeral nature of paper, but the permanence of friendships ("We will always talk as friends"). Bumar focused on the existence of the contract, its legality, and the fact that it had been written according to Iraqi supplied specifications.

The helicopter "scandal" and Poland had become synonymous in the Iraqi media and among the general public. The fact that few Polish companies had won U.S. or Iraqi-funded contracts for work in Iraq remained a sensitive topic in Poland. Throughout most of 2004, the Poles were very vocal about their desire to "fully" participate in Iraq reconstruction. They were not as outspoken on Iraqi contracts as they once were, due in part to the very positive press this $132 million deal received when it was signed in December 2004. Cancelling the contract returned this issue to the front page of the news, unhappily reviving what had been a quiet topic.

The Iraq Army Aviation Command accepted delivery of four new Mi-171E helicopters at its headquarters in Taji, as two were delivered Jan. 16 followed two more Jan. 23, 2011. This latest delivery brought Iraq Army Aviation Command's total inventory of Mi-171E helicopters to 14. At that time, Iraq's fleet of multipurpose helicopters included 30 Mi-17, which included a number of aircraft that were already in the Iraqi inventory, and 14 Mi-171E helicopters. The U.S. Army's Non-Standard Rotary Wing Program Office bought 22 of the aircraft for Iraq, of which 14 had been delivered by May 2011, and all 22 by the end of the year, bringing the total inventory of Mi-171 helicopters to 62.

The Iraqi Air Force conducted its first rotary-wing night mission since 2003 in the skies over Baghdad, 03 December 2008. Two Iraqi crews, using night vision equipment, flew their Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters outside the air base at Taji. The first Iraqi night vision goggle sortie occurred in August. The mission started with a trip to Besmaya range for NVG gun training for the Iraqi helicopter gunners and pilots and then a landing at Landing Zone Washington, in Baghdad’s International Zone, and Landing Zone Liberty, near Baghdad International Airport, for familiarization. This was the first ever Mi-17 NVG sortie outside of Taji airfield. All previous training has been ‘inside the fence’. This is the first one on the outside. The Iraqi Air Force acquired night vision goggles in June and began their night training with a fleet of American OH-58 Kiowa helicopters on loan from the Iowa National Guard. They trained day and night to be ready to take control of Iraq’s night skies.

On July 30, 2008 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Helicopters and related munitions as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.4 billion. The Government of Iraq requested a possible sale of 24 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters or 24 Boeing AH-6 Helicopters, 24 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines, 565 M120 120mm Mortars, 665 M252 81mm Mortars, 200 AGM-114M HELLFIRE missiles, 24 M299 HELLFIRE Guided Missile Launchers, 16 M36 HELLFIRE Training Missiles, 15,000 2.75-inch Rockets, 24 M280 2.75-inch Launchers, 24 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box, 24 M134 7.62mm Mini-Guns, 81mm ammunition, 120mm ammunition, test measurement and diagnostics equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $2.4 billion. This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country. This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the U.S.

On 26 March 2009 it was reported that Eurocopter would supply Iraq with 24 EC 635 light helicopters to Iraq under a inter-governmental agreement. The deal, worth €360 million ($488 million) including pilot training and maintenance, marked the first French defense sale to Iraq since 1990. The Eurocopter EC 635 were expected to be delivered by end of 2011.

The Armed Scout Helicopter (Bell 407) program includes 27 helicopters [3 of which are for training], with another 26 proposed [bringing the total buy to $1B]. Iraq placed an order for three Bell 407s for modification to an armed scout helicopter on February 18, 2009. A contract for 24 additional Bell 407s with an option for 26 more was awarded in April 2009. IqAAC purchased two dozen of the armed scout variant of the Bell-407 for nearly $400 million in 2010. The arrival in December 2010 of three Bell T-407 training helicopters at Camp Taji, Iraq, helped to train qualified Iraqi Army pilots to operate and maintain the helicopters, as well as rapidly accelerate the fielding and utilization of Iraqi 407 Armed Scout Helicopters which were scheduled to be fielded by the end of 2011. The armed aircraft will enhance the capability of Iraqi forces to see what is occurring on the ground and increase their ability to support counter-terrorism activities by sending the information through Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance technology (ISR) to Iraqi Army ground forces.

In April 2011 the air traffic controllers and advisors from Ali, Taji and Baghdad discussed the Taji airfield transition plan as U.S. forces prepare to turn over control to the Iraqi Army Air Corps controllers in the upcoming months. The team also addressed the impact and specific operational requirements for U.S. air traffic controllers as their work locations shrink throughout the transition. Ten U.S. Air Force and Army air traffic controllers advising their Iraqi counterparts at major installations around Iraq convened 28 April 2011 to discuss airfield plans for the final months before U.S. troops exit under the Dec. 31, 2011, mandate. The meeting was an opportunity to see firsthand the results US advisors' work partnering with the Iraqi air force. ATC advisors certified three Iraqi air traffic controllers from Taji and Ali airfields - bringing the total number of certified Iraqi air force controllers to 18. In the past year, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority had also licensed six IqAF controllers - a first in IqAF history.

The Iraq Security Assistance Mission (ISAM) supported USACE transfer of two construction projects at Camp Taji that were originally undertaken for the USF-I to provide critical aviation basing capability for the IA. In early 2011, a 118,400-square-foot helicopter maintenance facility and nearby squadron operations building were turned over to the Iraqi Army Air Corps. The $9.8 million hangar and $1.5 million operations building took nearly two years to complete. According to USACE, the hangar was the largest free-span building in the Middle East.

Possible acquisitions under consideration by early 2012 included up to 15 helicopters of either Agusta Westland AW 109s or Bell 429 Medical Evacuation and Aerial Observation helicopters or EADS UH-72 Lakota Light Utility. For medium utility Iraq may place an order for a dozen Agusta Westland AW139 Medium Utility helicopters or Bell 412s.

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Page last modified: 14-01-2012 12:12:24 ZULU