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An-32 CLINE bomber

The Antonov AN-32 “Cline” is basesd on the widely-used AN-26 light transport plane, but the high placement of the engine nacelles above the wing allow bigger propellers, driven by 5,100 hp AI-20 turboprops which nearly double the output of the AN-26’s engines. Thus the AN-32’s 14,750 pound/ 6900 kg payload capacity is almost 50% better than that of the AN-26.

As very often happened in the Soviet Union, even seemingly peaceful products could always be used for military purposes. As for transport aircraft, this is what is called God himself commanded. Therefore, all military transport aircraft of Antonov Design Bureau, starting with the An-12, had the opportunity to be used as "carpet bombers." For each aircraft, a special conveyor was designed to supply bombs. And the sights and panoramic radar to determine the point of discharge of goods out of sight of the earth were already "by definition". India was the plane’s launch customer in the 1980s. The AN 32 is mainly used as medium transport aircraft as well as in bombing roles and para-dropping operations. The IAF currently operated 105 An-32s as of 2012, all of which were being upgraded as of 2010. Known as the Sutlej in the IAF, the An-32 is the workhorse of the transport fleet traveling to far off bases such as Leh, to deliver much-needed supplies to the Army outposts in the area.

Indian An-32 bomberIndian Air Force uses its AN-32 aircraft as bombers, continuing the tradition of its predecessor AN-12 which was used by IAF to bomb Pakistani positions in 1971 War where they did Carpet-Bombing using 500-pounders. Indian Air Force An-32s pioneered the use of a removable roller conveyor on guide rails in the cargo bay, carrying four 500lb/250kg bombs. This system was proved during India’s Iron Fist exercise in February 2013 at the Pokhran Test Range in western India.

In 2009, Iraq signed a contract with Ukraine for the supply of 6 An-32B military transport aircraft, spare parts and ground equipment worth $ 99 million. Antonov undertook to train Iraqi flight and technical staff, as well as to provide warranty service for three years aircraft, for which the relevant specialists were sent to Iraq.

When operations by the so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh) began to ramp up in 2014, the Iraqi Air Force was sorely lacking in close air support and ground attack capabilities. An interim solution was found in the shape of the six Antonov An-32B tactical transport aircraft delivered from February 2011 to augment the C-130 Hercules operating with the 23rd Transport Squadron at New Al Muthana Air Base. Subsequently, in May 2013, Iraq formed a new unit, the 33rd Transport Squadron, to operate the An-32s.

In July 2014, Islamic State terrorists launched their triumphant offensive in Iraq, capturing Anbar province and several major cities. The Iraqi army in the area of ??hostilities was completely disorganized. Against the backdrop of these failed battles, the Iraqi Air Force was unable to provide real assistance.

In these circumstances, the Iraqis mentioned the bombing capabilities of the An-32B. With the help of Ukrainian technicians, regular BDZ-34 bomb holders (two from each side of the fuselage) began to be installed on the planes, and the ASO-2V heat trap units were removed. The standard NKPB-7 was used as a sight.

Iraq transformed its six An-32s by adding a removable roller conveyor on the guide rails in the cargo bay. The conveyor could fit four 500-pound bombs. With the help of Ukrainian technicians, the Iraqi Air Force modified a pair of An-32Bs to serve as bombers. The first aircraft was fitted with external BDZ-34 bomb racks – as used by Ukrainian An-26s – while the second adopted the Indian approach, with an internal roller-conveyor.

Indian An-32 bomberThe Iraqi Air Force released an infographic providing details of its operations against ISIS in the period between June 10, 2014 and December 31, 2017. According to the released info, Lockheed Martin F-16IQ fighter jets carried out 514 combat sorties, Su-25 attack aircraft carried out 3,562 combat sorties, L-159 advanced light combat aircraft carried out 398 combat sorties and An-32 cargo planes (used as bombers) participated in 990 combat missions. The Iraqi military appreas to rely on An-32 cargo planes converted into bombers more than on US-supplied F-16IQ fighter jets.

Interestingly, in all available photos on the Iraqi An-32 hung only a couple of bombs - either on the first or on the second bomb holder. Given the carrying capacity of the transport aircraft, this most likely indicates the preparation of training bombs - it would be strange to send a combat mission with a meager load. However, the use of combat bombs for training bombing also does not seem to be the best option, but perhaps in Iraq there were simply no practical bombs like the P-50.

To date, the An-32B continues to serve in the Iraqi Air Force, it is unknown about any flight accidents or problems with the operation of the An-32B in Iraq. There is also no information about any plans to replace them with "western" types of aircraft.

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