Forces: Back At Last, The Iraq Army Air Corps


August 29, 2010: The Iraqi Army now has its own air force (The Iraq Army Air Corps) with the recent transfer of air force helicopters to army control. Iraqi Army Aviation Corps disappeared, with the rest of the Iraqi Army, in 2003. But now the army now has fifty Russian Mi-17s and 16 American UH-1Hs. On order are 24 U.S. Bell 407s and 24 European EC 635s. Both of these models will arrive next year, and both are light transports that can also be armed for gunship duties.

Iraq has used Russian helicopters for decades, and the Mi-17s were obtained new, and used, from several sources. The Mi-17 is the export version of the Mi-8, a twin-engine helicopter, roughly equivalent to the U.S. UH-1. But the Mi-8/17 is still in production and is the most widely exported (2,800 out of 12,000 made) helicopter on the planet.

The Mi-8 is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1, but only hauls about 50 percent more cargo. However, the Mi-8 had a larger interior, and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s, while the Mi-8 just kept adding better engines and electronics to the basic Mi-8 frame. But the UH-60, while weighing as much as the UH-1 (4.8 tons), could carry as much as the 12 ton Mi-8. But the Mi-8 costs about half as much as a UH-60, and the larger interior is popular with many users. Russia also offers lower rates for training pilots and mechanics.

The Ministry of Interior (which controls the national police) is also forming its own air corps, and is shopping for light scout helicopters (like the UJ-72A or OH-58) and ten utility helicopters (like the UH-1, UH-60 or Mi-17). Iraqis have long been partial to helicopters, given that most of the country is quite flat and amenable to the use of choppers.



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