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Iraqi Air Force
Iraqi Air Force roundel.svg
Symbol of the IQAF
Founded April 22, 1931
Country Iraq
Allegiance Iraqi Security Forces
Branch Air Force
Size Approx. 1600 personnel[1][2]/ 86 aircraft as of September 2008
Anniversaries April 22 (Air Force Day)[3]
Engagements Anglo-Iraqi War
Six-Day War
Yom Kippur War
Iran–Iraq War
Invasion of Kuwait
Gulf War
1991 uprisings in Iraq
Iraqi no-fly zones
Iraq War
Maj Gen. Anwar Hamad Amin
Roundel Iraqi Air Force roundel.svg
Former roundel IQAF Symbol.svg
Aircraft flown
Reconnaissance CH 2000, Ce 208 ISR, KA 350 ISR
Trainer Ce172, Ce 208, T-6A, Bell 206B, OH-58C
Transport C-130E, KA 350ER, Mi-17, UH-1H

The Iraqi Air Force or IQAF (Arabic: Al Quwwa al Jawwiya al Iraqiya القوة الجوية العراقية) is the military branch in Iraq responsible for the policing of international borders, surveillance of national assets and aerial operations. The IQAF also acts as a support force for the Iraqi Navy and the Iraqi Army and it also allows Iraq to rapidly deploy its developing Army.

It was first founded in 1931, when Iraq was under British rule, with a handful of pilots and continued to operate British aircraft until the 14 July Revolution in 1958, where the new Iraqi government began increased diplomatic relationships with the Soviet Union. The air force used both Soviet and British aircraft throughout the 1950s and 1960s. When Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, the air force grew very quickly after Iraq ordered more Soviet and French aircraft. Its peak came a few years after the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War, in 1988, when it consisted of over 950 aircraft, becoming one of the largest air forces in the region. Its downfall came after the Gulf War and when the coalition forces enforced no-fly zones. Iraq's air force eventually collapsed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Currently, the IQAF is rebuilding and receiving most of its training and aircraft from the United States.



The Royal Iraqi Air Force (RIrAF) considered its founding day as 22 April 1931, when the first pilots flew in from training in the United Kingdom.[3] Before the creation of the new air force, the RAF Iraq Command was in charge of all British Armed Forces elements in Iraq in the 1920s and early 1930s.[4] The RIrAF was based at the airport in the Washash neighborhood of Baghdad, and consisted of five pilots, aeronautics students trained at the RAF College Cranwell, and 32 aircraft mechanics.[3] The original five pilots were Natiq Mohammed Khalil al-Tay, Mohammed Ali Jawad, Hafdhi Aziz, Akrem Talib Mushtaq, and Musa Ali.[3] During the early years of the Royal Iraqi Air Force, it mainly received aircraft from the United Kingdom.[4]

In the years following Iraqi independence, the Air Force was still dependent on the Royal Air Force. The Iraqi government allocated the majority of its military expenditure to the Iraqi Army and by 1936 the Royal Iraqi Air Force had only 37 pilots and 55 aircraft. The following year, the Air Force showed some growth, increasing its number of pilots to 127.[5]


The RIrAF was not used in a combat role until being decimated in the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War, and then in 1948 in their war against the newly-created state of Israel.[4] During the Anglo-Iraqi War, the RIrAF under Rashid Ali received aid from the Luftwaffe to fight the British. When the First Arab-Israeli War erupted, the RIrAF was still recovering from its destruction by the British[4] . Even though the RIrAF was still contained a modern aircraft inventory, the RIrAF played a small role in the first war against Israel. In 1948 to 1949 the RIrAF dispatched Avro Anson training-bombers to Jordan, from where these flew a number of attacks against the Israelis[4] . Part of the Ansons were replaced by the more modern fighter the Hawker Fury. These aircraft flew only two missions against Israel in Iraqi markings before most of the available examples were given to the Egyptians.[4] All together 14 Hawker Furies were delivered but only 6 were operational by the 7 of June, 1948.[4] Despite all these early problems the RIrAF was to continue purchasing Furies, and acquired a total of 38 F.Mk.1s, and 4 two-seaters.[4] The only claimed aircraft kill of the Fury belonging to the RIrAF was an Israeli Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.[4] The IQAF also received the first 3 de Havilland Dove VIP-transports which entered in 1951.[4]

1950s and early 1960s

During the 1950s, the RIrAF went through a series of important developments where their monarchy government was toppled in 1958 resulting in the change of arms imports from countries.[4] From 1950 to 19 most of the RIrAF aircraft were from the United Kingdom. The first jet fighters, the de Havilland Vampire of the RIrAF were delivered in 1953. The RIrAF also received de Havilland Venoms and Hawker Hunters during the mid-1950s.[4] In 1954 and 1956, a total of 19 de Havilland Vampire jet fighters were delivered, and with the help of U.S. funding, 14 ex-RAF Hawkers were delivered.[4] They also received 4 obsolete Bristol 170 Freighters in 1953.[4]

After the 14 July Revolution in 1958, when the King of Iraq was overthrown, the country increased diplomatic and political relationships with the Warsaw Pact countries, while simultaneously severed relations with western nations.[4] The Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) dropped "Royal" from its name after the revolution.[4] The Communists were swift to start supplying MiG-17s, and later MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters, as well as Ilyushin Il-28 bombers to the new Iraqi government.[4] They also received 13 Ilyushin Il-14 transports in 1957 from Poland.[citation needed] The first MiG-17s were first delivered in 1958 to replace the de Havilland Vampires.[citation needed] It is possible that during the late 1960s and or early 1970s for a few additional MiG-17 examples were purchased and then forwarded to either Syria or Egypt.[4] The IQAF received about 50 MiG-19s during the early 1960s but some of these aircraft were given to Egypt. In 1966, Assyrian Iraqi Captain Munir Roufa flew his MiG-21F-13 to Israel. Two years later, Israel gave his MiG-21F-13 to the United States for evaluation under the code-name "Have Donut".[6]

Another coup in 1962 brought Iraq closer to the NATO powers, and as a result, more Hawker Hunters were ordered by the IQAF.[4] For several years aircraft imports from the Communist Eastern European nations ceased—until 1966, where a batch of MiG-21PF interceptors was purchased from the Soviet Union.[4]

Six-Day War

During the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Iraqi Air Force had many planes destroyed by an Israeli strike on one of its bases on the first day of the war.[citation needed] The Iraqi Air Force regrouped and struck back, however, as it bombed several air bases and land targets on the fifth day, and it also played a significant role in supporting Jordanian troops.[3] As well, the Iraqi Air Force assembled a special task force of foreign pilots to take the vanguard, and on June 6, Iraqi Hawker Hunters some piloted by East German, Polish, and Pakistani pilots destroyed seven Israeli planes in air combat.[4] Due to these volunteers, the IQAF were successfully able to defend their air bases in western Iraq from additional Israeli attacks.[4] On the same day the IQAF also were able to break through Israeli air spaces and destroyed five Israeli aircraft in air fighting.[3]

1970s and the Yom Kippur War

Throughout this decade, the IQAF grew in size and capability, as new treaties with the Eastern European nations were to bring large numbers of relatively modern fighter aircraft to the air force.[citation needed] The Iraqi government was never satisfied with the East supplying them and while they were purchasing modern fighters like the MiG-21 and the Sukhoi Su-7, they began persuading the French to sell Mirage F-1s fighters and later Jaguars.[4]

Before the Yom Kippur War, the IQAF sent 12 Hawker Hunters to Egypt where they stayed to fight; only 1 survived the war.[4] The IQAF first received their Sukhoi Su-7s in 1968; they were originally stationed in Syria. Aircraft deployed to Syria suffered heavy losses due to Israeli aircraft and SAMs.[citation needed] In addition, they were hit with friendly fire from Syrian SAMs.[citation needed] A planned attack on the 8th of October was canceled due to these heavy losses as well as disagreements with the Syrian government.[citation needed] Eventually, all aircraft besides several Sukhoi Su-7s were withdrawn from bases in Syria. During the war in October 1973, the first air strike against Israeli bases in Sinai was composed of Iraqi planes; they hit artillery sites and Israeli tanks, and they also claimed to have destroyed 21 Israeli fighters in air combat.[7] Shortly after the war, the IQAF ordered 14 Tu-22Bs and two Tu-22Us from the USSR as well as Raduga Kh-22 missiles from Romania.[citation needed] By 1979, 10 Tu-22Bs and 2 Tu-22Us were delivered.[citation needed]

The 1970s also saw a series of fierce Kurdish uprisings in the north of the country against Iraq.[citation needed] With the help of the Shah of Iran, the Kurds received arms and supplies including modern SAMs as well as some Iranian soldiers.[citation needed] The IQAF suffered heavy casualties fighting the Kurds, so they began using their new Tu-22s in combat against them, as they were able to avoid a greater percentage of SAMs due to their greater mobility.[4] During the mid-1970s, tensions with Iran were high but was later resolved with the Algiers Treaty.[citation needed]

1980s and War with Iran

Between 1980 and the summer of 1990, the number of combat aircraft in the IQAF went from 332 to over 950.[3] Before the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the IQAF had expected 16 modern Dassault Mirage F.1EQs from France and were also in the middle of receiving a total of 240 new aircraft and helicopters from their Eastern European allies. When Iraq invaded Iran in late September 1980, the Communists and the French stopped delivery of additional aircraft to Iraq but resumed deliveries a few months later.[8]

The IQAF had to instead fight with obsolete MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers.[8] The MiG-21 was the main interceptor of the force while their MiG-23s were used for ground attack.[citation needed] These aircraft were still no match for the Iranian F-4 Phantoms and F-14 Tomcats, however.[citation needed] On the first day of the war, a formation of MiG-23s and MiG-21s raided airports and airfields of the Iranian Air Force, but the Iranian aircraft were not heavily damaged because of strong concrete hangers that housed the planes.[citation needed] In retaliation for these aerial attacks, the Iranian Air Force launched Operation Kaman 99 a day after the war was launched.

During late 1981, it was soon clear that the modern Mirage F-1s and the Soviet MiG-25s were effective against the Iranians, though they suffered considerable losses to Iranian interceptors.[citation needed] Some of these aircraft were reportedly even when flown by foreign mercenaries and "advisors".[8] The IQAF began to use their new Eastern weaponry which included Tu-22KD/KDP bombers, equipped with Kh-22M/MP air-to-ground missiles, MiG-25s equipped with Kh-25 air-to-ground missiles as well as Kh-25 and Kh-58 anti-radar missiles and even MiG-27s, equipped with Kh-29L/T missiles.[8] In 1983, to satisfy the Iraqis waiting for their F-1s, Super Etendards were leased to Iraq. The Iranian gunships and the Iranian fleet suffered severe damage by these attacks interceptors.[8]

USS Stark listing following two hits by Iraqi Exocet missiles

The IQAF generally played a major role in the war against Iran, it had bombed airfields in Tehran and other Iranian cities.[3] The air force had a more successful role attacking tankers and other vessels using Exocet missiles on their French built Mirage F-1s. On May 17, 1987, an Iraqi F-1 mistakenly launched two Exocet anti-ship missiles into the American frigate USS Stark crippling the vessel and killing 37 sailors.[3]

By 1987, the air force consisted of 40,000 men, of whom about 10,000 were apart of the Air Defense Command.[3] Its main base was in Baghdad and other major bases in Basra. The IQAF operated from 24 main operating bases and 30 dispersal bases, with nuclear-hardened shelters and extensive runways.[3] At the end of the war, the IQAF played a significant role in halting Iran's last military offensive, resulting in Iraq's relative success in this bloody and prolonged conflict.[3]

1990s- Persian Gulf War and no-fly zones

In August 1990, Iraq had one of the largest air forces in the region even after the long Iran–Iraq War. The air force at that time contained more than 500 aircraft in their inventory. Theoretically, the IQAF should have been 'hardened' by the conflict with Iran, but post-war purges decimated the air force, as the Iraqi regime struggled to bring it back under total control.[8] Training was brought to the minimum during the whole of 1990.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi Air Force was devastated by the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies. Most airfields were heavily struck, and in air combat Iraq was only able to obtain two kills, while sustaining many losses. Five out of the six Tupolev Tu-22s that Iraq possessed were destroyed by bombing at the start of Operation Desert Storm.

The MiG-25 force (NATO reporting name 'Foxbat') recorded the first Iraqi air-to-air kill during the war. A Mig-25PD shot down an American F/A-18 on the first night of the war. In 2009 the Pentagon announced they had identified the remains of the pilot, Navy Captain Michael “Scott” Speicher, solving an 18-year mystery. Captain Speicher was apparently buried by nomadic Bedouin tribesmen close to where his jet was shot down in a remote area of Anbar province.

The second air-air kill was recorded by a pilot named Jameel Sayhood on January nineteenth. Flying a MIG-29 he shot down a RAF Tornado GR.1A. The RAF plane was piloted by Gary Lennox, and Adrian Weeks.[9]

In another incident, an Iraqi Foxbat-E eluded eight American F-15s, firing three missiles at an EF-111 electronic warfare aircraft, forcing them to abort their mission. In yet another incident, two MiG-25's approached a pair of F-15 Eagles, fired missiles (which were evaded by the F-15s), and then out-ran the American fighters. Two more F-15s joined the pursuit, and a total of ten air-to-air missiles were fired at the Foxbats; none of which could reach them.

In an effort to demonstrate their own air offensive capability, on 24 January the Iraqis attempted to mount a strike against the major Saudi oil refinery in Abqaiq. Two Mirage F-1 fighters laden with incendiary bombs and two MiG-23s (along as fighter cover) took off from bases in Iraq. They were spotted by US AWACs, and two Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s were sent to intercept. When the Saudis appeared the Iraqi MiGs turned tail, but the Mirages pressed on. Captain Iyad Al-Shamrani, one of the Saudi pilots maneuvered his jet behind the Mirages and shot down both aircraft. After this episode, the Iraqis made no more air efforts of their own, only sending most of their jets to Iran in hopes that they might someday get their air force back. (Iran never returned the jets.) [10]

During the Persian Gulf War, most Iraqi pilots and aircraft (of French & Soviet origin) fled to Iran to escape the bombing campaign because no other country would allow them sanctuary. The Iranians impounded these aircraft after the war and never returned them, putting them in the service of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force[11] -- claiming them as reparations for the Iran–Iraq War. Because of this Saddam Hussain did not send the rest of his Air Force to Iran just prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, instead opting to their burial in sand. Saddam Hussain, preoccupied with Iran and regional power balance, is reported to have had commented: "The Iranians are even stronger than before, they now have our Air Force."[12]

These included: Mirage F1s, Su-17, Su-20 and Su-22M Fitters, Su-24MK Fencer-Ds, Su-25K/UBK Frogfoots, MiG-21 Fishbeds, MiG-23 Floggers, MiG-25 Foxbats, MiG-29A/UB Fulcrums and a number of Il-76s, including the one-off AEW-AWACS prototype Il-76 "ADNAN 1". Also, prior to Operation Desert Storm, ten Iraqi MiG-23s were sent to Yugoslavia for servicing, but were never returned due to the Kosovo War.

Abandoned Iraqi FT-7 in front of the Al Asad ATC Tower.
An Iraqi MiG-29 aircraft lies in ruins after it was destroyed by Allied forces during Operation Desert Storm.

Persian Gulf War aircraft losses[13]

Aircraft Origin No. Shot Down No. To Iran
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Soviet Union Soviet Union 4 0
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Soviet Union Soviet Union 9 12
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Soviet Union Soviet Union 2 7
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Soviet Union Soviet Union 6 4
Dassault Mirage F-1 France France 9 24
Sukhoi Su-7/17 Soviet Union Soviet Union 4 0
Sukhoi Su-20 Soviet Union Soviet Union 0 4
Sukhoi Su-22 Soviet Union Soviet Union 2 40
Sukhoi Su-24 Soviet Union Soviet Union 0 24
Sukhoi Su-25 Soviet Union Soviet Union 2 7
Ilyushin Il-76 Soviet Union Soviet Union 1 15
Mil Mi-8 Soviet Union Soviet Union 1 0
Observation helicopter 1 0
U/I helicopter 1 0
Total Number Loss 44 137

As well as the Persian Gulf war, the IQAF was also involved in the 1991 uprisings in Iraq. Mi-8, Mi-24, Gazelle, Alouette and Puma helicopters were used to counter the attempted Shi'ite and Kurdish revolts between 1991 and 1993.

After the Persian Gulf War, the air force consisted only of a sole Tu-22 and several squadrons of MiG-25s purchased from the Soviet Union in 1979. During the period of sanctions that followed, the Air Force was severely restricted by no-fly zones established by the coalition and by restricted access to spare parts due to United Nations sanctions. Many aircraft were unserviceable and a few were hidden from American reconnaissance to escape potential destruction. In patrols of the no-fly zones, three Iraqi MiGs were lost. Despite several attacks from U.S. F-15s and F-14s firing AIM-54 and AIM-120 missiles at the Iraqi fighters, the Iraqi maneuvers ensured they were able to avoid any casualties in their dispute over Iraqi airspace. The last recorded air-to-air kill was on 23 December 2002, when a MiG-25 Foxbat shot down an American RQ-1 Predator.[14]

Operation Iraqi Freedom - 2003

An Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat found buried under the sand west of Baghdad.

On the brink of the US led invasion, Iraq's air power numbered an estimated 180, of which only about a half were serviceable.[15] Despite a Yugoslav weapons company providing servicing to their MiG-21s and MiG-23s in late 2002,[15] Saddam Hussein disregarded his air force's wishes to defend the country's airspace against coalition aircraft and ordered the bulk of his fighters disassembled or buried. Air Vice Marshal Abed Hamed Mowhoush was apparently the air force commander immediately prior to the war. Some were later found by US excavation forces around the Al Taqqadum and Al Asad air bases, including MiG-25s and Su-25s.[16] The IQAF proved to be totally non-existent during American invasion; a few helicopters were seen but no fighters flew to fight against coalition aircraft.[citation needed]

During the occupation phase, most of Iraq's combat aircraft (mainly MiG-23s, MiG-25s and Su-25s) were found by American and Australian forces in poor condition at several air bases throughout the country while others were discovered buried.[17] Most of the IQAF's aircraft were destroyed during and after the invasion, and all remaining equipment was junked or scrapped in the immediate aftermath of the war. None of the aircraft acquired during Saddam's time remained in service.[13]

Post-Invasion to Present

A U.S. Airman conducts post-flight checks on an IQAF C-130 Hercules.

The Iraqi Air Force, like all Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, is being rebuilt as part of the overall program to build a new Iraqi defense force.[18] The newly created air force consisted only of 35 people in 2004 when it began operations.[19]

In December 2004, the Iraqi ministry of defense signed two contracts with the Polish defence consortium BUMAR.[20] The first contract, worth 132 million USD, was for the delivery of 20 PZL W-3 Sokół helicopters and the training of 10 Iraqi pilots and 25 maintenance personnel.[20] They were intended to be delivered by November 2005, but in April 2005 the company charged with fulfilling the contract announced the delivery would not go ahead as planned, because the delivery schedule proposed by PZL Swidnik was not good enough.[20] As a result only 2 were delivered in 2005 for testing.

The second contract, worth 105 million USD, consisted of supplying the Iraqi air force with 24 second-hand Russian-made, re-worked Mi-17 (Hips).[20] As of 2008, 8 have been delivered and 2 more are on their way. The fleet of Hips is already operational. The Mi17s are reported to have some attack capability.[21]

An Iraqi Air Force C-130 Hercules on the flightline at Al Basrah International Airport on May 1, 2005.

The Air Force primarily serves as a light reconnaissance and transport operation.[22] On March 4, 2007, the IQAF carried out its first medical evacuation in the city of Baghdad when an injured police officer was airlifted to a hospital.[23]

In 2007, the USAF's Second Air Force, part of Air Education and Training Command, was given responsibility to provide curricula and advice to the Iraqi Air Force as it stands up its own technical training and branch specific basic training among others. This mission is known as "CAFTT" for Coalition Air Forces Training Team.[18][22]

During the 2008 Battle of Basra the Iraqi Air Force planned, executed, and monitored 104 missions in support of Iraqi ground security forces in Basra during Operation Charge of the Knights in the Basra area between March 25 and April 1. [24]

In 2009 the first of several Iraqi officers completed their flying training at RAF Cranwell, a development with echos of the Iraqi Air Force's early beginnings.[25]

On April 29, 2009 the first 3 of an unspecified number of Beech 350 Super King Air light transport airplanes arrived at London-Luton airport on delivery to the Iraqi Air Force.

On August 30, 2009 the Iraq Defense Ministry revealed that they had discovered 19 Soviet Mig-21 and MiG-23 aircraft that had been stored in Serbia. Saddam Hussein sent the 19 jet fighters to Serbia for repairs in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war but was unable to bring them back after sanctions had been imposed on his country. The Serbian Government promised to make two of the aircraft available “for immediate use,” and would proceed to restore the remaining aircraft on a rush basis.[26]


The IqAF is a decade or more from being built to current plans and having a real air defense capacity but, the support components for the Iraqi Army are only about 5 years from completion.

Much of the IqAF’s resources are still in building infrastructure. The IqAF has 4 operational bases and is currently developing 5 more with a plan for 14 bases by 2015. However, the last 9010 Report [27] indicated that they are considering reducing this to 4 primary bases and 3 forward operational bases. This reflects the realities of limited Ministry of Defense resource allotments to the IqAF plus major personnel shortages and priorities.

  • Active Bases (4): New Al Muthanna [BIAP], Kirkuk, Basrah, and Taji.
  • Developing Bases (5): Ali [Tallil], Kut, Shaibah, Tikrit, and Taqaddum.
  • Reported Planned Bases (5): Irbil, Al Asad, H2, Suwayrah, and Q-West.

In 2007, the IqAF was reported as planned to have an eventual total of 38 squadrons. Currently the IqAF is only 9 squadrons with 3 more forming. Additionally, there are 15-16 squadrons identified as probably planned based on reported negotiations on numbers and types of aircraft to be purchased.

The existing and currently forming squadrons include 3 reconnaissance, 1 fixed-wing training, 1 rotary-wing training, 1 transport, 1 utility helicopter, 1 transport helicopter, and 1 special operations squadron with 2 fixed-wing training and 1 attack helicopter squadron forming:

  • 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron is based at Kirkuk. Equipped with Cessna C208 Caravan ISR

and light transport aircraft.Three of the ISR aircraft are equipped to fire Hellfire missiles and have been training in this role.

  • 70th Reconnaissance Squadron is based at Basrah but is moving to Ali.

Equipped with Sama CH2000 and SBL-360 reconnaissance aircraft.

  • 87th Reconnaissance Squadron is based at New Al Muthanna [BIAP]

and is equipped with King Air 350 ISR and light transport aircraft. While there were reports that these aircraft were to be equipped to fire Hellfire, there have been no reports of training in this role since their delivery.

  • 1st Flight Training Squadron is based at Kirkuk but is moving to Tikrit.

Equipped with Cessna C172 and is used for basic flight training.

  • 12th (Rotary) Flight Training Squadron is based at Kirkuk but is moving to Tikrit.

Equipped with Bell 206 Jet Rangers and loaned US Army OH58s and is used to train helicopter pilots.

  • 23rd Transport Squadron is based at New Al Muthanna [BIAP]. Currently equipped with 3 C-130E with 6 C-130J-30 on order for delivery by 2013.
  • 2nd Utility Helicopter Squadron is based at Taji.

Equipped with UH-II Huey II and used for multiple roles including SAR and night-vision training.

  • 4th Transport Helicopter Squadron is based at Taji.

Equipped with Mi17, this squadron also supports a detachment at Taqaddum. Regularly used for medical evacuation and general transport.

  • 15th Special Operations Squadron is based at Taji.

Equipped with MI17v5, this squadron provides support to the Iraqi Special Operations Force.

  • 88th Attack Helicopter Squadron is forming at Taji.

To be equipped with used French Army SA342 Gazelles that are reported ready for delivery in France. Maintenance technicians are reported training in France and expect to be at Taji in April 2010. [Hat-tip: Marco Dijkshoorn of the Dutch Aviation Society / Scramble Magazine.[28]]

  • 2 more unidentified Training Squadrons are forming at Kirkuk with eventual basingat Tikrit.

One of the squadrons is equipping with US T-6A trainers.The first 4 of 15 ordered T-6As were delivered in December 2009 with all 15 to be delivered by December 2010. The second squadron is equipping with Serbian Lasta-95 trainers. Serbian sources have reported 9 of 20 ordered Lasta-95s were delivered by December 2009 with all to be delivered by the end of 2010. [The Lasta95 arrivals in Iraq is unconfirmed.]

The 15-16 additional planned squadrons and their types are inferred by aircraft orders and Iraqi MoD official’s stated desires to order:

  • 5 Fighter Squadrons are probably planned based on the Iraqi MoD desire for 96 F16C/D by 2020.
  • 2 Lt Attack Squadrons were probably planned to be equipped with the 36 AT-6B approved by FMS.

Actual order is on hold for budget reasons. Alternatively these aircraft could be split between the reconnaissance squadrons and a 4th squadron formed. Thus converting the 4 resulting squadrons to composite squadrons with ISR, light attack, and light transport aircraft. The AT-6B is equipped with a data-link that is compatible with the ISR equipment in the IqAF to facilitate targeting direction from the ISR aircraft.

  • 3 Transport or Special Operations (Helicopter) Squadrons planned.

Five squadrons worth of Mi17 crews are reported trained but, only 2 squadrons are currently equipped with helicopters ordered for a 3rd.

  • 2 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Squadrons are planned based on the 24 armed Bell 407s ordered

and the option for 26 more. The initial 24 are contracted to be delivered by 30 August 2011 and if the option is exercised the remaining 26 are to be delivered by 2013.

  • 3 Attack Helicopter Squadrons are planned or forming based on the 24 EC-635 ordered and the

option for 26 more plus the option for additional SA342 Gazelles. Delivery of the first EC635 has been reported but, the arrival in Iraq is unconfirmed. Production rate reported indicates the EC635s are being delivered at 1 per month, indicating the first 24 are to be delivered by 2012 and the optional 26 EC635s could be delivered by 2014. There is no confirmation that the option for a second squadron’s worth of SA342 Gazelles has been exercised.

  • 1 Transport Squadron is probably planned based on the order of AN-32s from the Ukraine.

6 are ordered with an option for 4 more to be delivered by 2014.

Much of the Iraqi Air Force’s planned organizational structure is not clear from public reporting. Only 27 or 28 of the 38 planned squadron types and their aircraft types are publicly reported or inferred and only 12 of those are formed or forming.

One-third of the 12 formed or forming squadrons are [as to be expected] the Flight Training Wing. Those 4 squadrons are moving to Tikrit where the IqAF is consolidating training.

While Iraqi MoD has expressed a desire for 5 squadrons worth of F16 fighters, that is unlikely to be the total jet fighter and attack force. This is especially true since the Iraqis have a practice of diversifying their aircraft orders to prevent single-source supply failure. Of note: Iraq has chosen to take a refund [29] for the 18 undelivered Mirage F1 aircraft vice taking delivery.

The Transport Wing is 1 squadron each of C130s and AN32s so far. There are probably 1 or 2 more squadrons of transport aircraft planned for the transport wing since the Iraqi Army is starting airborne training soon.[30]

There are no clear signs or reports on what the IqAF support elements to the Iraqi Navy and Marines will be. Probably only one squadron is planned.

The Iraqi Army plans to have 4 corps and the IqAF helicopter/reconnaissance aircraft purchases should reflect that planned structure since they are direct support elements for the IA. There should be an aviation brigade/wing supporting each of those 4 corps. The IqAF appears to have a target date of 2015 for building those army direct support squadrons. The orders and reported training for these elements indicate a force of:

  • 3 reconnaissance squadrons and 2 light attack [COIN] squadrons or 4 composite squadrons with a mix of recon, light attack, and light transport aircraft.
  • 2 armed reconnaissance helicopter squadrons. [2 more to be ordered?]
  • 4 attack helicopter squadrons.
  • 5 transport helicopter squadrons. [1 squadron is dedicated ISOF support.]

While the IqAF is missing some elements, the planned organization of each of the 4 Corps’ Aviation Support Wings/Brigades appears to be:

  • 1 fixed-wing composite squadron of recon, light attack, and light transport aircraft.

[Currently missing 1 squadron and the light attack aircraft component that has been delayed by budget problems.]

  • 1 armed reconnaissance helicopter squadron. [Missing 2 squadrons of helicopter orders.]
  • 1 attack helicopter squadron. [On order and delivering.]
  • 1 transport helicopter squadron. [Crews trained; 1 operational, 1 ordered, and 2 missing.]

This projection disregards the planned wartime joint structure of 9 corps. In that structure, 3 of those 9 corps are Ministry of Interior and MoI is ordering its own helicopters.

The Iraqi Air Force is slowly developing. But it will not be ready by 2012. While Iraqi Army support, transport and reconnaissance should be ready by 2015; Air defense will not be operational until 2020 at earliest, budget permitting. The priorities in development have been and remain army-centric.

[Full disclosure: Since 2007, I have been disregarding the reported orders of SA342 Gazelle aircraft. I was aware that MNSTC-I CAFTT had recommended against ordering Gazelles. Iraqi MoD’s reluctance to buy used equipment after the BUMAR incident in 2005 also colored my view; Gazelles manufacture was discontinued in the early 1990s, these aircraft being delivered are used French Army. The nearly identical reporting on EC635 order numbers had me convinced that the Gazelle reporting was confusion with the EC635 orders. The current ISF OOB reflects this error in judgment and will be corrected with the March update.]


An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 172 lands at Kirkuk Air Base.
An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 208 flies over Iraq on a training sortie.

It was reported in December 2007 that a deal had been reached between the Iraqi government and Serbia for the sale of arms and other military equipment including 36 Lasta 95 basic trainers.[31] It is speculated that Iraq may buy 50 Aérospatiale Gazelle attack helicopters from France.[32] In July 2008, Iraq had formally requested an order for 24 light attack and reconnaissance helicopters. The aircraft would either be the U.S. Army's new ARH-70 helicopter or the more popular MH-6 Little Bird.[33]

As of September 2008, the IQAF has expressed an interest in buying 36 new-built F-16s to reduce its reliance on U.S. air power and potentially allow more American forces to withdraw from the country according the US military.[34]

On October 14, 2008, Aviaition Week reported that two hellfire-equipped Cessna 208Bs were spotted at an ATK facility in Meacham Airport, Fort Worth, Texas. The Iraqi air force is due to receive 3 armed Cessna Caravans in December 2008, with two more to be delivered in 2009. This represents the first IAQF strike capability since the start of the war in 2003.[35]

The Iraqi government announced in November 2008 that the Iraqi Air Force would purchase 108 aircraft through 2011. Ultimately the force will consist of up to 516 total aircraft by 2015, then 550 total aircraft by 2018. Specific types being purchased included Eurocopter EC 635 and Bell ARH-70 type helicopters. Additionally, 24 T-6 Texan II aircraft would be purchased for the light attack role.[36]

Over the summer of 2008, the Defense Department announced that the Iraqi government wanted to order more than 400 armored vehicles and other equipment worth up to $3 billion, and six C-130J transport planes, worth up to $1.5 billion. [37]

Air Force commanders

  • 2008- present Anwar Hamad Ameen[44]

Order of battle

The Iraqi Air Force consists of nine squadrons and one training wing:[45]

Aircraft inventory

Current inventory

Members of the Iraqi Army board an Iraqi C-130 Hercules in Basra.
Bell 206B Jet Ranger
Air Force Mil Mi-17-V5
Iraqi UH-1 preparing for takeoff.
Aircraft[49] Origin Type Versions In service[50] Notes
Trainer Aircraft
Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II  United States COIN attack AT-6B 0 36 AT-6B light attack aircraft to be delivered by 2011.
Bell 206 JetRanger  United States utility/ training helicopter 206B 10
Bell 407  United States conversion training helicopter 0 3 Aircraft pending delivery. To be used as training helicopter for the armed versions.
Bell OH-58 Kiowa  United States utility/ training helicopter OH-58C 10[51] On loan from US Army
Cessna 172 Skyhawk  United States utility/ basic training 18 Option for up to 28 total aircraft
Cessna 208 Caravan  United States utility/ training TC208 5
Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II  United States training T-6A 4 First delivery December 2009. 15 total on order.
Lasta 95  Serbia basic training 1?[52] Possible deliveries from 2007 deal. As many as 36 to be delivered?
Transport Aircraft
Beechcraft King Air 350  United States light/ VIP transport 350ER 24
Lockheed C-130 Hercules  United States tactical airlift/ transport C-130E
ex-USAF, 6 C-130-J30 versions to be delivered.
Reconnaissance Aircraft
Beechcraft King Air 350  United States surveillance and reconnaissance 350ISR 10 24 total aircraft expected by end of 2009.
Cessna 208 Caravan  United States ground surveillance/ strike RC/AC208 8 armed with Hellfire missiles.
SAMA CH2000  Jordan liaison 16
Seabird SBL-360 Seeker  Jordan Observation/ liaison SB7L-360A 2 Both aircraft upgraded with Westar reconnaissance sensors and returned to service in 2009.
Bell UH-1H Iroquois  United States light-lift utility helicopter Huey II 16[53]
Bell Armed 407  United States reconnaissance/ light attack helicopter 0 24 helicopters to be delivered by 2011. Option for additional 26 helicopters TBD though 2012.
Eurocopter EC 635  France light attack/ utilitiy helicopter 0 24 helicopters to be delivered by 2011. Option for additional 26 helicopters TBD through 2012.
Mil Mi-17 Hip-H  Russia medium-lift transport helicopter Mi-171
Some helicopters not operational.

22 additional Mi-17's to be delivered in 2010.[54]

Fighter Aircraft
Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon  United States Fighter Aircraft 0 5 Fighter Squadrons (96 Fighter) are probably planned based on the Iraqi MoD desire for 96 advanced F16 ( Block 50-52 ) by 2020, deliveries probably starting around 2011]]
Mirage F-1  France multi-role fighter 0 Iraq has chosen to take a refund for the 18 undelivered Mirage F1 aircraft vice taking delivery , even that GoI is looking to buy these jets.
Total 165 474 expected total

Possible sales and acquisitions

  • The Iraqi government is seeking the return of 7-11 MiG-23's sent to Yugoslavia in 1989; they will need to be refurbished if they are returned to service.[55]
  • The Iraqi government is seeking the return of 8-12 MiG-21's sent to Yugoslavia in 1989; they will need to be refurbished if they are returned to service.[55]
  • Possible sale of 6 Antonov An-32 aircraft as part of 2.5 billion dollar arms deal with Ukraine.[56]
  • As part of a military contract that includes training for Army personnel, the Iraqi government signed an agreement with France to refurbish and upgrade 18 Mirage F-1 multi-role fighters that remained in France during the embargo throughout the 1990s. [57]

On November 19, 2009, the US DSCA announced a formal request from the Iraqi government to buy up to 27 light and medium utility helicopters, in a deal whose possible value is set at $1.2 billion. The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale in a couple of categories. The Light Utility Observation category already fits the EC635, which reportedly has an option for additional helicopters in the contract. Candidates in the DSCA request include up to:

In the medium utility category, candidates include:

However this could be delayed, for reasons that go beyond the standard 30-day Congressional blocking period. A drop in global oil prices from their recent $100+/bbl highs has affected Iraq’s budgets, and delayed a number of existing military purchases. This combination of budget issues, and a rigid agreement concerning the end of America’s combat presence in Iraq, has left the Iraqi government in a position where it is unlikely to be able to properly enforce the military mandates it will assume. American and Iraqi personnel have been assessing what is possible by 2011-2012, and what might be done. Prioritization of requests will be especially tight in this environment.

See also


  1. ^ "Iraqi Air Force executes over 100 missions in support of Operation Charge of the Knights -Sale-". (2008). Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  2. ^ "Iraq's air force taking to the skies again - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times.,0,1291368.story. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Global security IQAF "Iraqi Air Force". 2005. Global security IQAF. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Cooper, Tom (2003). "Iraqi Air Force Since 1948 Part 1". Air Combat Information Group. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  5. ^ a b Al-Marashi, Ibrahim; Salama, Sammy (2008). Iraq’s Armed Forces. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 0415400783. 
  6. ^ "Stealing a Soviet MiG". Jewish virtual library (2005). Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  7. ^ "IRAQ". Arabs At War. 1. University of Nebraska Press. 2002 [1997]. p. 167. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Cooper, Tom (2003). "Iraqi Air Force Since 1948 Part 2". Air Combat Information Group. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  9. ^ "Iraqi air-air victories during the Gulf War 1991". 2004. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  10. ^ "The Gulf War - The Air Campaign". 2005. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  11. ^ "Iran 'makes own warplane'". BBC News. 1999. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  12. ^ Woods, Kevin; Michael R. Pease, Mark E. Stout, Williamson Murray, James G. Lacey (2006). The Iraqi Perspective Report. Naval Institute Press. p. 40. ISBN 1-59114-457-4. 
  13. ^ a b "Iraqi Air Force Equipment - Introduction". 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  14. ^ CBS News report of the dogfight "Pilotless Warriors Soar To Success". CBS 2003-04-25. CBS News report of the dogfight. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  15. ^ a b "Analysis: Iraq's air force". BBC News. 2003-03-17. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  16. ^ Air Force News - Air Force Times HOME
  17. ^ "Scramble on the Web - Iraqi Air Force". Scramble. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  18. ^ a b "U.S. Airmen Help Iraqi Air Force Fly". Air Force News. March 29, 2007.,15240,130549,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  19. ^ a b c d "(New) Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) and Iraqi Army Air Corps". MILAVIA. 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  20. ^ "Iraq to Have Some Air Strike Capability, U.S. Says". Reuters. 12-6-2007. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  21. ^ a b Schloeffel, Senior Airman Eric (2008-06-24). "Iraqi airmen reach maintenance goals, keep fleet soaring". 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  22. ^ Kent, Cpl. Jess (March 22, 2007). "Iraqi Air Force performs first MEDEVAC". Blackanthem Military News. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
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  30. ^ - Iraq to buy 35 airplanes from Serbia
  31. ^ Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle: July 2008 Update - The Long War Journal
  32. ^ Iraq Seeks Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters
  33. ^ "Iraq Seeks F-16 Fighters -". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  34. ^ "New Iraqi Airborne Strike Capability". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
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  36. ^ Iraq Seeks F-16 Fighters
  37. ^ Lyman, Robert (2006). Iraq 1941: The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad. Campaign. Oxford, New York: Osprey Publishing. pp. 21. ISBN 1-84176-991-6. 
  38. ^ Sada, 55.
  39. ^ Sada, 64.
  40. ^ The Air War In The Persian Gulf
  41. ^ Sada, 127.
  42. ^ " - U.S. Forces Capture Iraqi Air Force Commander".,2933,89435,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  43. ^ a b "Ambassador Hosts Iraqi Air Force Commander U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Warsaw, Poland". U.S. Diplomatic Mission. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  44. ^ a b
  45. ^ a b c d "Iraqi Air Force". Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  46. ^ "Iraqi air force takes flight with help from U.S. Airmen". U.S. Air Force. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
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Sada, Georges; Black, J N (2006). Saddam's Secrets. Integrity Media Europe. ISBN 1591455049. 

Further reading

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