Iraqi Air Force [IqAF] Modernization - Fighter
Boris Boillon, the French Ambassador to Iraq, confirmed 27 January 2011 that France had proposed a deal for 18 retrofitted Mirage F1s fighters [not Mirage 2000s]. Iraq operated the Mirage F1 before the US invasion, and had a further 18 Mirage F1 aircraft on order which had been impounded by France as part of the international sanctions regime.
A total of 20 Utva Lasta trainers were delivered between December 2010 and March 2011 by Utva Aviation Industry of Serbia. By late 2010 Iraq continued to evaluate options that included the Italian M-346 of Aermacchi, the British BAE Hawk and the Korean KAI T-50 Golden Eagle. Primary interest seems to have focused on 24 second-hand Czech Aero L-159A single-seat light multi-role combat aircraft. Iraq has ordered 10 Antonov An-32, to be delivered by 2012.
In September 2011 the government of Iraq spent more than $1.5 billion to purchase the combat-proven F-16 advanced air defense fighter, as have 25 other nations. This acquisition and others would facilitate interoperability not only with the USAF but also with many NATO and allied partners. Although a significant step towards renewing Iraq’s air defense, the decision to field a new weapon system such as the F-16 carries with it many challenges. These include ensuring the proficiency of Iraqi personnel in English, offering follow-on technical training for IqAF pilots and maintenance crews, making decisions on weapons storage, executing bilateral government agreements for the release of sensitive information, investing for the long term in modernizing and building base infrastructure, and developing career paths.
Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki told the BBC 27 June 2014 that he hoped jets from Russia and Belarus would turn the tide against the rebels in coming days. He said the process of buying US jets had been “long-winded.” “I’ll be frank and say that we were deluded when we signed the contract [with the U.S.].” He said if they had had air cover, the militants’ advance could have been averted.
On 28 June 2014 the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced the arrival of five (5) Russian Sukhoi Su-25 jets in Iraq. The jets were delivered by a Russian An-124 transport plane in a dismantled state, and are expected to be set up and become operational within 3-4 days. “The Sukhoi Su-25 is an air-ground support and anti-terrorism mission aircraft. In these difficult times, we are in great need of such aircraft. With God’s help, we would be able to deploy them to support our ground forces on a mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants within the next 3-4 days,” Iraqi Army Lieutenant General Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed told RT’s Ruptly news agency.
Justin Bronk of RUSI reported 29 June 2014 "Exasperated at the lack of air support from the United States to fight ISIS, the Iraqi government has purchased second-hand Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia and Belarus.... Maliki has announced the purchase of second-hand Sukhoi fighter jets from Belarus and Russia which he hopes would ‘destroy the terrorists’ dens ... within one week’. This is an unexpected and desperate move but also one which exposes continued political ignorance about what is required to make air power effective on the battlefield.... Without trained fast-jet pilots, the Iraqi Air Force will presumably have to rely on foreign (probably Belorussian) pilots. They will likely be unable to communicate easily with the Iraqi forces they are supposed to be co-ordinating with, and the systems on their aircraft will almost certainly be incompatible in frequency, linguistic and electronic terms with other Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army assets."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, when asked on 30 June 2014 about the Su-25 deliveries to Iraq, said Russian arms supplies to Baghdad were now completed, but he gave no more detail. Iraq is to receive from five to ten Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft by September, Russian Ambassador to Baghdad Ilya Morgunov said 01 July 2014. "From five to ten [planes] will be delivered by the end of the summer,” Morgunov said. “The contracts [for military hardware], signed in 2013, are being implemented according to schedule.” Other sources reported that June delivery to the Iraqi government was the first 5 of 12 promised Sukhoi Su-25 combat jets.
The Russian delivery of fighter jets to Iraq would fulfill a need that has gone unmet by the United States and other countries, Iraqi ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, said 01 July 2014. "As far as the purchases from Russia [of fighter jets], we don't have choices. The situation on the ground is pushing us and cornering us to choose whoever is available to support us on the ground," said Faily in response to a question from RIA Novosti. Addressing the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Ambassador Faily continued that while he respects the political process in the US regarding international weapons sales, it has created a delay that has jeopardized Iraqi security. "We never wanted to be part of this internal US discourse as to the provision of weapons and strategic capabilities to Iraq. However, unfortunately that was the result. And what we see now is the aftermath of the slow responses to the situation in Iraq," Faily said.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said 02 July 2014 that analysis of a video released by the Iraqi authorities suggests the Sukhoi jets delivered on July 1 originated from Iran. Russia earlier supplied an initial delivery of Su-25 ground attack aircraft. According to Joseph Dempsey, an analyst for the IISS's Military Balance publication, it is unclear who would be responsible for crewing and maintaining the aircraft. But he added that “it seems increasingly unlikely that Iraq retains the capacity to operate this type of aircraft in any significant number without some level of external support.”
Experts agreed that sending Russian pilots in would make no sense. “First, this move carries serious risks for Moscow,” said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. “If any of our soldiers are taken as prisoners, the whole world will be watching a Russian pilot get his head cut off in Iraq. “Second, Iraq has domestic specialists, as well as pilots sent to them by Iran [Iran has already sent an Su-25 group to Iraq, and there is a total of 13 such aircraft in the Islamic Republic – according to Russia Beyond the Headlines]. In the worst-case scenario, Iraq can borrow pilots from the Syrians or hire them on the open market,” said Pukhov.
According to media reports, Iraq is interested in Russia’s Su and MiG jet fighters, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems, and armored vehicles. The total volume of supplies may top 4 billion dollars. Speaking about the supplies of warplanes, this could include the MiG-29M/M2 jet fighters and a cheap version of the Su-30 family, including the Su-30MK2 planes that have more simple equipment as compared with more advanced Su-30MKI used by the Indian air forces.
As of February 2015 the Iraqi army had a total of 15 fighter jets, all of which were Su-25s. Timely delivery of Russian Sukhoi Su-25 jets to Iraq has helped Baghdad battle extremists, including the Islamic State militant group, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said 05 February 2015. “The addition of Su-25 jets to the military arsenal contributed to changing the military balance in favor of the Iraqi army, and contributed to liberation of many strategically important areas where they were used to conduct airstrikes,” the ministry said in a statement.
The document said that the jets were delivered with all necessary equipment, and Russian experts trained Iraqi army pilots to operate the planes. “The delivery of these jets [Su-25] was conducted in the framework of international support of Iraq in its fight against terrorism. Fast and timely delivery of aircraft by Russian military aviation experts was due to connections between Russian and Iraqi government”.
As of January 2021 there were rumors that the Iraqi Minister of Defense was close to signing a contract to buy Rafale planes from France, and was at the stage of discussing how to pay for them, whether through a loan or in exchange for oil.
On a special invitation from the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, H.E. Mr. Hamid Abbas Lafta, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in Islamabad visited Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra specialized in the manufacturing of warplanes. The Ambassador met with Air Marshal Syed Noman Ali on 14 July 2020. During the inspection tour of the complex’s (four) factories, including the military aircraft manufacturing factory and the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder aircraft production unit, which is the pride of Pakistani industry, the delegation was briefed on the stages of military aircraft production, its remanufacturing and structuring. A number of staff from the Iraqi Embassy participated in the visit.
In September 2021 local media reported thst Iraq was planning to acquire a dozen JF-17 fighter aircraft from Pakistan and had allocated $600 million for the deal. Pakistan's pakobserver newspaper revealed that Iraq had placed an order for 12 JF-17 Thunder Block III combat aircraft. The newspaper, followed by Al-Ahed website, said 25 September 2021 that "the advanced-level aircraft will be manufactured at the Pakistan Aviation Complex (PAC) Kamra n in cooperation with China." The newspaper quoted sources as saying, "Officials from Pakistan and Iraq held various rounds of talks to finalize the defense agreement." The negotiations were finally concluded with the visit of an Iraqi defense delegation headed by the Deputy Commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Major General (Pilot) Muhammad Majid Mahdi Mahmoud. A formal agreement was expected to be signed in October 2021.
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