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Iraqi Air Force [IQAF]

The Iraqi army that was founded on 6 January 1921 needed an air force. So in 1927 five students were sent to Cranol college in Britain to study aeronautics. They were Natiq Mohammed Khalil al-Tay, Mohammed Ali Jawad, Hafdhi Aziz, Akrem Talib Mushtaq, and Musa Ali). Another 32 students were sent to study aircraft mechanics. After studying for four years, the pilots returned with their warplanes from London to Baghdad. The pilots landed at al-Washash airport on 22 April 1931, and were received by a number of officials and gathering of people. This date was considered the Air Force Day.

The Air Force took part in the May 1941 war against British occupation, and it participated in the 1948 war against Israel. It also took part in June 1967 war, when Iraqi plans bombed air bases of enemy and several of land aims on fifth day. It had also a significant role in supporting Jordanian troops, bombing Kafr Sukreen airport and destroying seven planes were on land. The operation of breaking through Israeli air spaces during the June war was done by Iraqi air force on 6 June 1967 when pilots destroyed two Israeli planes in air fighting. In the October 1973 war, Iraqi force had an effective role in aiming the first air strike, attacking bases of Israel in Sinai. Warplanes also bombed enemy's artillery sites in the east of shore in Sinai, and claimed to have felled 12 Israeli war planes in air fighting, in addition to destroying enemy's tanks in center of front.

During Iran's aggression against Iraq on 04 September 1980, the Iraqi air force had an effective role in destroying enemy's airports and its essential strategic targets. Between 1980 and the summer of 1990 the number of combat aircraft went from 332 to over 950. Iraq's air force, the IQAF, had generally played a minor role in the Iran-Iraq war, though it had attempted strategic attacks against Teheran and Iranian airfields. It was far more successful in making long-range anti-shipping strikes against tankers and other vessels, including a tragic, mistaken attack on the American frigate USS Stark on May 17, 1987. At the end of the war, in conjunction with its army and special operations forces, the IQAF played a significant role in routing Iran's last military offensive, resulting in Iraq's relative success in this bloody and prolonged conflict.

In 1987 the Iraqi air force consisted of 40,000 men, of whom about 10,000 were attached to its subordinate Air Defense Command. The air force was headquartered in Baghdad, and major bases were located at Basra, H-3 (site of a pump station on the oil pipeline in western Iraq), Kirkuk, Mosul, Rashid, and Ash Shuaybah. The Iraqi air force operated from 24 main operating bases and 30 dispersal bases, with extensive nuclear-hardened shelters and multiple taxiways to multiple runways.

Iraq's more than 500 combat aircraft were formed into two bomber squadrons, eleven fighter-ground attack squadrons, five interceptor squadrons, and one counterinsurgency squadron of 10 to 30 aircraft each. Support aircraft included two transport squadrons. As many as ten helicopter squadrons were also operational, although these formed the Army Air Corps. The Air Defense Command piloted the MiG-25, MiG-21, and various Mirage interceptors and manned Iraq's considerable inventory of surfaceto -air missiles (SAMs).

In terms of numbers of combat aircraft, the Iraqi Air Force was the largest in the Middle East in August 1990. The quality of the aircraft and aircrew, however, was very uneven. Its effectiveness was constrained by the conservative doctrine and aircraft systems limitations. While Iraqi pilots performed some impressive, relatively complex strikes with the F-1, air-to-air engagements were unimpressive. Lock on by Iranian fighters generally would cause Iraqi pilots conducting offensive counter air missions to abort their missions. Survival dominated their tactics, even when the odds were overwhelmingly in their favor. Aerial engagements were characterized by high-speed, maximum-range missile launches, and a lack of aggressive maneuvering. Saddam had proven reluctant to commit the air force to combat, preferring to keep it in reserve for a final defense of Baghdad and the regime. The Iraqi Air Force had been used most effectively in the war with Iran against economic targets such as oil facilities and tankers. During the war, tactics evolved from high-altitude level bombing to low-level attacks with precision guided munitions (PGMs). Iraq not only imported cluster bombs and fuel-air explosives, but also had acquired the technology to produce these weapons. Pilots had become adept at delivering both conventional and chemical-filled munitions during the final 1988 offensives.

The early use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi Air Force proved ineffective due to poor employment techniques and unfavorable weather. Iraq initially employed the same tactics as with the delivery of conventional weapons and did not factor in terrain and meteorological factors, including wind speed and direction, humidity, and temperature. Also, pilots delivered chemical ordnance at altitudes too high to be effective, or too low for bomb fuzes to function properly, preventing bombs from detonating. The Iraqis later corrected these problems by improving delivery techniques and by using impact fuses.

Iraqi aircraft were deployed at more than 24 primary and 30 dispersal airfields throughout the country. The main operating bases were well constructed, built to withstand conventional attack. The Iraqis could shelter almost all their aircraft in hardened shelters, some built by Yugoslav contractors to standards believed to be able to withstand the effects

Iraq patterned its air defense network upon standard Soviet practice: a strongly internetted, redundant, and layered air defense system that blended radars, hardened and buried command and control facilities, surface-to-air missiles, interceptors, and antiaircraft artillery.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:47:12 ZULU