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Iraq receives additional Su-25 jets, purportedly from Iran
The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) has reportedly received from Iran a number of Sukhoi Su-25 'Frogfoot' ground-attack aircraft to augment those already supplied by Russia.
A video and statement posted on the Iraqi Ministry of Defence (MoD) website on 1 July announced that a second batch of five jets had arrived "over the skies of Baghdad" to join the five aircraft that came from Russia aboard an Antonov An-124 'Condor' cargo aircraft on 29 June.
While the MoD statement makes no mention of the origin of these aircraft, regional media sources claim that up to seven Su-25K/UBK aircraft were flown to Imam Ali Air Base (also known as Talil Air Base) from Iran. The MoD video footage appears to give credence to this, as the aircraft are painted in an Iranian camouflage scheme (minus national markings) and their pilots have a regional appearance.
According to the media reports, these 10 or 12 Russian and Iranian-supplied Su-25s will be operated out of Imam Ali Air Base in the south of the country near Nasiriyah, from where they will be deployed north to support Iraqi ground forces fighting Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/ISIL) militants.
With the Su-25 out of Iraqi service since at least the US-led invasion in 2003, it is unclear who will crew and maintain these aircraft. Given the urgent nature of their deployment, they are likely to be piloted and supported by both Russian and Iranian personnel.
While the Iraqi Army fields a rather potent ground attack capability in the form of four Mil Mi-35 'Hind' (with deliveries of another 24 ongoing), 24 Airbus Helicopters EC635, and 24 armed Bell 407 JetRanger helicopters, these are limited in range, endurance, and (with the exception of the Mi-35s) firepower.
The IqAF is far more limited in the fixed-wing ground attack assets it can call upon. With the 24 Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II turboprops and 24 Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 light attack jets it recently ordered not yet delivered, it has just 11 AGM-114 Hellfire-armed Cessna 208B Grand Caravan turboprops to employ in a strike role (notwithstanding the recently arrived Su-25s).
Before the security situation with the Islamic State deteriorated, Iraq had just begun receiving the first of 36 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons from the United States. These are being procured primarily as air defence fighters, and so would be of limited use in the current crisis.
Even so, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has publicly bemoaned that these aircraft are not already operational with the IqAF, saying they could have prevented the Islamic State's gains.
According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Pentagon has had to evacuate its contractors from Iraq, so delivery of these F-16s might be delayed. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.
[Source: By Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 01Jul14]
War in Iraq
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