Air Defense: Iran Awaits The Iraqi Hawk


August 12, 2013: Iraq has been without any air defense since the U.S. left in 2012. Iraq refused the standard U.S. Status of Forces agreement (giving U.S. troops immunity from corrupt Iraqi officials), the U.S. Air Force jet fighters and U.S. Army anti-aircraft systems left and now Iraq has finally made up its mind on how to deal with this. Last year it ordered 42 Russian Pantsir-S1 mobile antiaircraft vehicles, but these are short range systems. The government did not keep going and buy long range Russian air defense systems.

Instead Iraq has gone back to the U.S. to buy a complete integrated air defense system. While U.S. suppliers are difficult (sometimes impossible) to get bribes from, the Americans do make a lot of the best stuff and their air defense equipment is proven. In addition to existing orders for dozens of F-16 fighters, Iraq will buy 40 Avenger (similar to Pantsir) vehicles, 681 Stinger MANPADS (MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems) missiles, and three HAWK (similar to Patriot) batteries (with 216 missiles plus radars and control centers). Hawk has a max range of 50 kilometers and can hit aircraft as high as 14,000 meters (45,000 feet). Each battery has six towed launchers, each carrying three of the 590 kg (1,290 pound) Hawk missiles. Ten additional surveillance radars are included, as well as integration. This will make all the surveillance radars (military and civilian) combine their data at the national air defense command bunker from which overall decisions can be made. All systems can get target information from the integrated system and coordinate their efforts. The total price of all this is $2.4 billion, and that includes training, support services, and the all-important integration. Iraq would eventually buy more Hawk batteries in order to cover all their cities and oil facilities. The latest version of Hawk can also handle short range ballistic missiles, which Iran has lots of.

The Avenger systems are hummers with a turret mounted on the back. The turret contains two missile pods (each containing four Stinger anti-aircraft missiles). Under one pod there is an M3P .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine gun. The weapons operator has use of a FLIR (night vision device) and a laser range finder. The machine-gun, however, can't be depressed sufficiently to fire at ground targets towards the front of the vehicle. The missiles have a range of 4.5 kilometers, the machine-gun about half that. The Pantsir-S1 is mounted on an 8x8 truck. Each vehicle carries radar, two 30mm cannon, and twelve upgraded Tunguska missiles. The 90 kg (198 pound) Tunguska missile has a twenty kilometer range, while the Pantsir-S1 radar has a 30 kilometer range. The missile can hit targets at up to 8,400 meters (26,000 feet) high. The 30mm cannons are effective up to 3,200 meters (10,000 feet). The vehicles used to carry all the Pantsir-S1 can vary, but the most common one used weighs 20 tons and has a crew of three.

Many of Iraq’s neighbors (including Iran) use Hawk. This may be a problem for the United States and an opportunity for corrupt Iraqi officials. Iran has 1970s era Hawk systems and Hawk has been considerably upgraded since then. Iran has a lot of fans inside Iraq and even more people in the Iraqi government and military who can be bought or rented. This makes it possible for Iran to upgrade its Hawk systems by getting access to upgraded Hawk technology in Iraq.




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