April 24, 2007:
The new Iraqi air force will triple in size
this year. It will still be strictly a non-combat support force. A year ago,
the Iraqi air force had less than a thousand personnel, and 29 aircraft (mostly
helicopters.) It's an odd collection of aircraft. There are small, prop drive
aircraft like the SB7L-360 Seekers, CH2000 SAMAs) and Comp Air 7SLs. The most
visible aircraft are the three C-130E four engine transports. The helicopter
forces is largely Russian made (Mi-17s from Poland), plus some Jet Rangers.
By the end of this year,
there will be nearly 3,000 personnel, plus 28 Mi-17 helicopters, sixteen UH-1
helicopters, and five Jet Ranger (a civilian version of the UH-1) helicopters.
Fixed wing aircraft will include, eight CH200s, two King Air 350ERs, and
sixteen Cessnas (six Caravans and ten 172s). The big problem at the moment is
training enough pilots, especially for the non-Russian aircraft.
Except for some
helicopters, the Iraqi air force largely stopped flying in 1991. Many pilots
got out of the country, seeking employment elsewhere. Some of these have been
brought back, as civilian contractors, to help train a new generation of Iraqi
The current aircraft and
helicopter force is based, along with civilian and American air units, at
Baghdad, Kirkuk, Basra and al Taji.