Iraq announces plan to expand the Air Force

Iraq will purchase 516 military aircraft from the United States and France for its new Air Force, a senior Iraqi military official said this week. The planes and helicopters will provide Iraq with its first significant air combat and strike capability, and are expected to cost billions of dollars.

General Nasier Abadi, vice chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, announced the initial orders on Nov. 2. The aircraft would be delivered to Iraq from 2011 to 2015. Iraq's current force has fewer than 100 aircraft. None of the aircraft currently in the Iraqi Air Force are strike planes or jets.

The first order is for 108 combat aircraft from the US and France, and is to be delivered in 2011. The aircraft on Iraq's shopping list provides insight into how Iraqis hope to configure their Air Force.

The Iraqi Security Forces are being upgraded in three stages. Each stage consists of five years. The first stage, in progress, began in 2006 and will last until 2011. Stage one is intended to build a basic force.

The second stage is designed to build the Air Force's capabilities. This stage will last from 2011 to 2015. The arms purchases for the beginning of stage two have been and are being announced.

The third stage is to complete the training and improvements. Details of this stage are limited and this article will not address it. The focus of this article is on the announced arms purchases and what they indicate for stage two developments in the Iraqi Air Force.

The current focus of Iraqi Air Force development is building up support infrastructure and training personnel. The plan is to have 6,000 personnel and 10 air bases established to support the squadrons by 2011. However, it usually takes two years from the time an aircraft is ordered until it is delivered. This is why the Iraqi Air Force has started orders for Stage two.

During stage two, the Iraqi Air Force will receive 516 aircraft. The Iraqi Air Force has ordered 36 F16 fighters, 24 AT-6B trainers, 24 EC-635 Utility/Attack Helos, and 24 Bell-407 Armed Recon Helos, all to be delivered in 2011. The trainer aircraft are probably a one-time buy. The others are probably the first of five yearly deliveries, with the remaining extras being additional fighters. Twenty-four aircraft are standard for an Iraqi helicopter squadron and 18 aircraft appears to be the standard for the fighter squadrons.

Since 516 aircraft are being bought for delivery 2011-2015, and 108 are already ordered for delivery in 2011, this means the other 408 remain for the period 2012-2015, and the Iraqis will purchase 102 aircraft per year. There are 84 aircraft accounted for in the helicopter and fighter purchases, leaving 18 per year not accounted for. The standard number of aircraft in a fighter squadron is 18, which means that they are buying a training squadron for 2011 and then additional fighters for the remaining four years. Aircraft deliveries for 2011-2015 work out to the following mix of squadrons:

• 2011: 2 fighter, 1 trainer, 1 armed recon helo, and 1 attack helo Squadron.
• 2012: 3 fighter, 1 armed recon helo, and 1 utility/attack helo squadron.
• 2013: 3 fighter, 1 armed recon helo, and 1 utility/attack helo squadron.
• 2014: 3 fighter, 1 armed recon helo, and 1 utility/attack helo squadron.
• 2015: 3 fighter, 1 armed recon helo, and 1 utility/attack helo squadron.
• Total of 25 squadrons (14 fighter, 1 trainer, 5 armed recon helo, and 5 attack helo squadrons).

There are seven existing Iraqi squadrons: one helicopter training (12th), one transport (23rd), two reconnaissance (3rd and 70th), one helicopter transport (4th), one utility/search and rescue helicopter (2nd), and one special operations squadron (15th-in training). There are at least two, and up to six, additional squadrons planned before 2011, judging from aircraft already being delivered: one to three transport helo, one to two reconnaissance, and one more transport squadron. Some of the helicopter transports could be used for special operations.

• Current Squadrons: 7 (1 transport, 2 recon, 1 helo training, 1 helo transport, 1 utility/search and rescue, and 1 special operations squadron).
• Squadrons adding prior to 2011: 2-6 (1 transport, 1-2 recon, and 1-3 helo transport).
• Total projected Squadrons by end of 2015: 34-38 (14 fighter, 1 trainer, 2 transport, 3-4 recon, 1 helo training, 2-4 helo transport, 1 util/SAR, 1 SOS, 5 armed recon helo, and 5 attack helo squadrons).

The December 2007 9010 Quarterly Report to Congress' mention of a planned target end strength of 38 squadrons fits this projection. Of note, the Lasta-95 trainer purchase is not included in this as there are some question as to whether they will ever be delivered. The helicopter purchases indicate that an aviation brigade is planned to support each of the four planned Iraqi Army Corps.

While all these squadrons will not be fully trained at the end of 2015, this schedule indicates that most, if not all of the squadrons will have their aircraft by the end of 2015. This fits with the Minister of Defense's statement that they should be independent in 2018 to 2020. He was allowing for training time, slippage in training time, budget delays, and delays in deliveries. The Iraqi Air Force is developing, but it will not be ready until sometime during stage three (2016-2020) of the Iraqi Security Force development plan.


READER COMMENTS: "Iraq announces plan to expand the Air Force"

Posted by Ali at November 6, 2008 12:10 PM ET:

Great article Elliot.

I am sure a strong and healthy relationship will continue between Iraq and the USA (..and France) in the military world.

We need to build up our air forces for deterrence only as we Iraqis will NEVER invade another country due to the fact we are a democracy. We now do not follow simply what goes through one man's crazy head.

Iraqis have had enough of war - believe me I know - and want to have a stable, prosperous, DEMOCRATIC country.

However, I am not sure how other countries around the middle east will take this news...Iran, Syria, Israel, the Gulf states might be a bit uneasy with a resurgent Iraq...

Long live the USA and Iraq.

Posted by anand at November 6, 2008 12:30 PM ET:

Nice comments Ali. I hope the size of the Iraq Air Force's planned fighter purchases do not scare Israel and Israel's friends in the US Congress.

DJ, only two planned (fixed wing) transportation squadrons at projected end state? That seems too light.

When does the second ISOF (or CTB) helo squadron come online? Presumably the MoI special operations forces (under CTB) such as the Emergency Response Brigade (ERB) will use the ISOF's helo squadrons.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 12:43 PM ET:

- "DJ, only two planned (fixed wing) transportation squadrons at projected end state? That seems too light."

It is all that is appearing in the purchases, so far. The priority is combat support. Of note: The Iraqi Airways is GoI owned and you are looking at a recent 50 airliner purchase. Just like Iranian Airliners have Mod III military IFF because they are reserve elements of the Iranian AF. And the US has CAF...

- "When does the second ISOF (or CTB) helo squadron come online?"

No indications at this time. Of note, when the CTB becomes a seperate ministry, they will be buying their own kit...

- "Presumably the MoI special operations forces (under CTB) such as the Emergency Response Brigade (ERB) will use the ISOF's helo squadrons."

False assumption.
- MoI was shopping for SOF type helos for their first squadron a couple of months ago. MoI is starting thier own Air corps.
- And CTB/ISOF is likewise a future new ministry. The decision to form 15th SOS was made over a year ago, before this year's decision to seperate ISOF from MoD to CTB and make CTB a seperate ministry...

Note: Concerning Israel, Iraq is not the country threatening their extinction and arming Hamas/Hezbollah. Just like Iran is arming the extremists against Iraq. Some are from the same surogate forces (Hezb). For Iran to strike Israel, requires overflight of Iraq, Turkey, or Saudi. Building Iraq's air defense indirectly helps Israel.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 3:16 PM ET:

You might want to review what type of training squadron the 24 AT-6Bs represent...

Posted by John Fanshawe at November 6, 2008 4:53 PM ET:

A couple of points on the F-16s.

The Iraqi's have submitted a Letter of Request (LOR) for pricing and availability (P&A) data for the F-16s - this is not an "order". The P&A data allows them to price out and budget for a multi-year procurement.

If the Obama administration decides that they're going to sell the F-16s - technically submission of an LOR is not an agreement to sell - then Iraq can negotiate directly with Lockheed Martin in a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) as the prime contractor or go through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process and work with the Defense Department's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

Lockheed Martin has a production schedule through 2012 at a rate of typically 1-2 airframes per month. That can go as high as 4 if additional orders come into play. This is a possibility with well publicized opportunities for the F-16 in other global markets.

If Iraq does proceed with a DCS or FMS case for F-16s the request is unlikely to be accepted, processed and congress notified much before January 1, 2010. If Lockheed Martin has secured no new orders they are likely to start delivery in late 2011 - as the author states - but deliver the airframes over several years.

14 squadrons of F-16s is 252 airframes. This does not seem an unreasonable final number for Iraq however the timeline you have outlined cannot be met as a consequence of political, bureaucratic, economic and production considerations.

As described:

2011 36 airframes
2012 54 airframes
2013 54 airframes
2014 54 airframes
2015 54 airframes

It is unlikely that Iraq would submit a new LOR each year for 54 airframes. It would require the Obama administration (as well as the one that follows it) to process a new sale each year taking time and adding additional political uncertainty. It would also raise the per unit cost and therefore the total cost if you broke the F-16 procurement program into 5 separate transactions.

In addition, the goal of 252 airframes would require Lockheed Martin to deliver 4.5 airframes per month which exceeds their highest rate of manufacturing at any point. If they have additional global orders production will have to be balanced between the needs of all customers.

I would suggest that Iraq will start receiving F-16s at the earliest in late 2011. It is likely that a follow on LOR will be submitted for a larger tranche possibly in the 144 airframe range in 2013 with delivery through the remainder of the decade. That should leave them a fleet of 180 airframes or 10 squadrons by 2018.

If Iraq orders more airframes it will need to consider the cost/benefit analysis of fielding 10 squadrons over 14 squadrons.

I suspect their own threat assessment and the status of US-Iraqi defense relations will also drive their decision.

252 airframes by 2015 is not realistic.

Posted by kelly at November 6, 2008 5:22 PM ET:

I hope we don't build the Iraqi AirForce in our own image. They could rebuild their airforce as an integrated part of their overall defense forces instead of a seperate service. CAS will be a big role for the Iraqi Air Force and desperately needed by the Iraqi ground forces. Familiarity between units (habitual relationships) will be key to both the ground and aloft forces' effectiveness.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 6:12 PM ET:


No seperate air for the services, all MoD air is IZAF. As such, it will not look like the USAF...

John Fanshawe:

I would love to see your sources. Mine is the public statement of the "vice chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces" at a brief with both UK and US flag-rank officers present as the link points to.

He says the first 36 are already ordered. So, rethink the numbers/timeline, and also consider the possibility of used airframes from an air force replacing F16s....

Posted by anand at November 6, 2008 6:18 PM ET:

Kelly, I couldn't agree with you more. Iraq's aviation assets should be developed with as much collaboration with the IA as possible. I like how the Marines do it.

Most of the Iraqi air force should be dual hatted as aviation brigades that report to the IGFC through the chain of command (division to Corps to IGFC.)

Personally, I don't understand why Army Corps don't have their own organic air assets (that can be loaned to other Army Corps as needed.) In my view, the Iraqi Air Force should report to the IGFC.

I think separating the Army Air Force from the rest of the Army (in the US) was a mistake. It increased duplication, and made these forces less joint.

Posted by Cordell at November 6, 2008 6:21 PM ET:


Do you have any idea if the Iraqis will be allowed to purchase precision munitions in these orders, or for that matter UAVs? These weapon systems played a vital role in suppressing the insurgency. One would think internal security would be as paramount in Iraqi military planning as external threats. Also, are the Iraqis looking to purchase any used F-16s?

Thanks again for all your hard work!

Posted by anand at November 6, 2008 6:30 PM ET:

John Fanshawe, my interpretation of General Nasier Abadi's (vice chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces) remarks, and the other the remarks of other MoD officials is that 36 F16 fighters are scheduled to be delivered in 2011. There is no confirmation on the type and make of the other fixed wing fighter aircraft the Iraqi Air Force wants to buy after 2012. For all we know, all of them might not even be fighter aircraft. Some might be tactical air support aircraft.

There are many ways to reach 36 F16s in 2011:
- refurbished and upgraded used F16s from an existing air force
- an existing F16 buyer agrees to defer their expected 2011 shipment of F16s, to allow the Iraqi Air Force to buy their allotment that year. {This country would then get the F16s it has ordered in 2012 or after.}
- some combination of the above and new F16s off the production line.

A question:
Is the F16 assembled by foreign countries abroad? Apparently, the US has offered India the option of assembling FA 18s inside India.

Posted by Cordell at November 6, 2008 6:36 PM ET:


One further question, how will the future Iraqi air force compare in size, quality and other such factors to the Iranian air force, the likeliest principal external threat?

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 6:40 PM ET:

Hellfire is already on order as mentioned previously.

By my math, based on the General's announcement that the first aircraft are already ordered, they are probably going new.

252 aircraft built over seven years (end-2015) is about 36/yr or 3 per month by my math.

The operative word is probably, as in 67% chance.

Also of note, FMS timelines only apply to purchases thru FMS. Direct purchase reduces the bureacracy considerably. Also, I did not specify F16 except for the first 36. I said fighter squadrons.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 7:03 PM ET:


The Commanding General of the Iraqi Air Force said the goal was an air force comparable to Turkey or Iran. This was last year and is a paraphrase from memory.

The Iranian Air Force has approx 270 strike and fighter jets. But they have maintenance issues since many are old. They have about 65 cargo transports, not including their airline. Helo numbers are a bit more problematic, especially since they are ordering new ones.

The Turks have about 400 jets of all types including about 220 F16s and 80 cargo aircraft and are in much better condition.

The numbers above are comparable, and as stated in the article and restated by Anand, the fighter squadron count is 14 sqs of 18 birds each. F16 is not the only fighter in town. 36 F16s have been ordered for delivery in 2011. What other types of fighters and who they come from to fill out the total of 516 aircraft to be delivered in 2011-2015 is the GoI's decision.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 7:17 PM ET:

I am going to spell something out, that apparently was not understood by at least one reader. I just finished re-reading my own article to make sure that I did not, inadvertently put an error in there.

I said that the General had said:

"The Iraqi Air Force has ordered 36 F16 fighters, 24 AT-6B trainers, 24 EC-635 Utility/Attack Helos, and 24 Bell-407 Armed Recon Helos, all to be delivered in 2011. "

From that point out in the article, I did not specify specific airframes, just types. That was very intentional. I expect the French to get part of the fighter buy just like they have got part of the helo buy...

Posted by Trophy Wench at November 6, 2008 7:29 PM ET:

DJ: I must say that I was a bit surprised when I read this 2 days ago. First off, and I don't think you would be able to answer this for me but ill ask anyway- why the sudden purchase of the EC-635? Is it because the Gazelle deal fell through or did they just shop around, see it in a catalog and say 'well if the Jordanians have it, it must be good!'?
Also, I must say that the AT-6 announcement was a little disheartening if not expected. To that end I must ask, when you say one time buy do you mean specifically the AT-6 variant or the Texan period? Because if it (the AT-6 deal that is) is finalized, then Beech should have a real corner on the market and I don't see any reason the the T-6 shouldn't be considered their new military trainer, making up a bulk of those 516 aircraft.
Lastly, this article;

Are these just standard Mi-17 or are they the new V5 SOF versions we've been hearing so much about? The article is a little confusing in clarifying that.

@John Fanshawe: I think you logic is good but as DJ pointed out it does tend to be a little unsubstantiated. This isn't Denmark, the IqAF is not going to be entirely made up of F-16's. Especially with a burgeoning defense relationship with the French. (DJ I think you know what I'm getting at here.)

@anand: To answer your question yes. SABCA in Belgium license produced them for a few years and companies in the Netherlands and Denmark have/ continue to produce sub components for their aircraft. TAI in Turkey now license builds them as do the Israelis by IAI with their own variant, the F-16I 'Sufa'. KAI in Korea has also taken to license build their own versions the F-16K and the Japanese also have their own larger ground attack variant, the Mitsubishi F-2.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 7:48 PM ET:

Trophy Wench:

- On the Gazelles, I think that was assumption. The order last year was canx and then every time a new French order was mentioned, people assumed it was Gazelle again. Turns out not. I am unsure when they shifted to Eurocopter. Specific airframes have not been mentioned except as speculation in the reporting over the last 4 months...

- Go to the link for AT-6B, it is more than just a trainer. This is also light attack to fill the COIN role. If you look at the reported 8 Tucanos and these 24 AT-6Bs, you have the 32 COIN birds mentioned as being bought via direct purchase last December so as to shorten the FMS delays and get them in 2009. When I listed 2011 for delivery, I ment by 2011.

- The article is about the first 4 of 26 Mi17v5s for 15th Special Operations Squadron. They were to be delivered in 2009, now it looks like they are getting them by 2009. (My notes page lists them as "ahead of sched.")

- "(DJ I think you know what I'm getting at here.)"
Yup. France is definately in contention for part of the fighter buy.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 8:28 PM ET:

Kelly, Anand,

The US Army does have its own tactical air force. It has more combat aircraft that the USAF. Helicopters. The USAF is 3rd in numbers of "tactical" aircraft in the US armed forces.

On the subject of IA Corps assigned direct support aviation:
"The helicopter purchases indicate that an aviation brigade is planned to support each of the four planned Iraqi Army Corps."

I put that in because I keep seeing 4 or 5 in the numbers of recon and helo squadron types.
Put the Recon, Armed Recon helo, Atk Helo, and a transport Helo together and you have the equivalent of a Corps' Aviation Brigade for each of the planned corps. Since they are AF, they will probably call it a group or wing...

The fighters are primary air defense and secondary ground support, so they remain under national assignment. Same with the fixed wing transport.

Of note: It is possible the AT-6Bs and the Tucanos will be split among the recon sqs and form four composit armed recon squadrons. I did not list them that way in the article because, I do not see sufficient numbers of trainers for the briefed build up without them.

Posted by anand at November 6, 2008 8:35 PM ET:

Trophy Wench,

Thanks for saving me a google search ;-) Is there any data on the "cost of goods sold" for F16s made in the US, versus licensed F16s assembled abroad?

i.e., would it be cheaper for the Iraqi Air Force to by licensed variant F16s from Korea, Belgium, Turkey, Israelis, Japanese etc.? Or would it be cheaper for the Iraqi Air Force to buy US manufactured F16s.

The main limitations on F16 manufacturing seems to be certain key components. There are a lot of different F16 assembling facilities.

I hope the Iraqis are negotiating hard on price for all the major systems (of all types) they are buying, where price is defined as life time cycle costs.

On another note, what is the special French/Iraqi relationship? If the relationship is so special, could the French be persuaded to send several hundred more of their best officers and NCOs to the NATO training mission in Iraq? They could significantly contribute to Iraq's Staff officer schools, and NCO academies.

France could also grant thousands of scholarships for ISF to study in French military and police academies.

Just thinking . . . special relationships should be milked for all they are worth.

Posted by Buff52 at November 6, 2008 9:39 PM ET:

Dear Anand,
The reason the United States Air Force separated from the U.S. Army in 1947 could be traced as a direct result of the court martial of General Billy Mitchell by U.S. Army infantry generals in the 1930's. The U.S. Army at the time did not understand the concept of Air Power nor appreciated officers who advocated it.

Posted by Trophy Wench at November 6, 2008 9:40 PM ET:

Anand: Concening the F-16's, the short answer is not really. All of these foreign programs are generally self serving for domestic needs. KAI for instance was only able to start producing F-16's because KAI already has a strategic industrial partnership with Lockheed Martin and had been building sub components for years. (Why do you think the T-50 looks the way it does?)
TAI is even more limited because it was only recently that they began to independently assemble and refurbish the domestic fleet of Turkish F-16's. (I should have clarified that earlier.)
The rest of Europe just doesn't maintain the capacity to produce F-16's only Flight control systems and avionics, that sort of thing.
Japan is constitutionally barred from exporting any arms at any level whatsoever.
And Israel, well lets face it, what self respecting arab country would buy anything from Israel?

As for that "Special Relationship" between the French and Iraqis, I know that the French did have an NCO and pilot training program for the Iraqi's in the 70's and 80's but after Desert Storm all French support dried up. I'm sure DJ could educate you on that subject better than I can.

Posted by anand at November 6, 2008 10:45 PM ET:

I am aware of the French NCO and pilot training program for the Iraqi's in the 70's and 80's.

What I don't know is the current strategic relationship between France (which is more than Sarkozy) and Iraq. For Iraq's sake, I hope they can reestablish a close strategic partnership with France. Iraq is going to need all the foreign collaboration and assistance it can get. We Americans are famous for being notoriously unreliable allies, especially when the chips are down.

"And Israel, well lets face it, what self respecting arab country would buy anything from Israel?" Hmmm. Suspect Israel is upgrading Iraq's T72 and M60 tanks.

I must say, we messed up when we wrote Japan's constitution. We should have joined Japan to NATO instead. South Korea too for that matter. Japan not being able to export weapons, not even to us Americans, is massively dumb.

What about the F-16K from Korea? Do F-16Ks cost a similar amount to comparable US manufactured F-16s? If the South Koreans could be persuaded to delay their own procurement of F-16Ks, and allot that production capacity to Iraq instead . . . is that possible?

For non F-16s.

Could Iraq consider refurbished and upgraded used Mig 29s, Sukhoi Su-27 (or its Indian/Chinese variants), or other Soviet Aircraft?

For example, some countries are that are buying new Aircraft . . . and might be willing to sell their used Mig29s, or other Soviet Aircraft.

What are the cheapest aircraft on the market? I have heard that the Chinese 4th Gen aircraft are not that good. But are they cheap? If so, might they be good enough for Iraq? (maybe the Chengdu J-10)

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 6, 2008 11:02 PM ET:


Iraq is trying to avoid old Soviet junk. Their attitude after losing while using it. They went with M16/M4s over AKs because of that attitude. Also, Russia has a way of being undependable in spares and engine overhauls.

Iraq had decades of experience with them and know this. That is why they are shopping in the west. Except for the Mi17s, I think we can safely exclude Russian and their Chinese copies.

As to the Mi17s, that is a crew issue, they have 900 trained Mi17 pilots and engineers available with just refresure training.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 7, 2008 4:04 AM ET:

First report other than from here mentioning the IZAF Expansion, and it also mentions French fighters...:

"The Iraqi air force, for example, announced this week that it has ordered French- and American-made fighters, but its planned 32 squadrons won't be fully up and flying until 2015."

Posted by jack winters at November 7, 2008 5:06 AM ET:


Great article as always, I agree with you Iraq is shopping around, according to my sources and you they are good, Iraq is going for the f-16 block 52 , and Iraq is looking very closely at the UAE mirage 2009, since the UAE wants to replace them with Rafale. Even if they don't buy from UAE the French will sell them that aircraft. The problem though remains the price tag with shrinking oil prices Baqar al-Zubadi Iraq's finance minister is telling them that the budget for 2009 is now 65B rather than 80B which will effect new purchases.

As for the Gazelle every one knows that Iraq has pilots who know how to fly them, that's was why there was a speculation as well as Mohamed Al-Askari spokesmen for the Iraqi MOD who first announced the purchases. But since France doesn't make them anymore I guess it was an issue.

DJ why didn't you mention all of this in the equipment list the Helo's the trainer?? And how does lower oil prices effect the plan??

Posted by anand at November 7, 2008 8:55 AM ET:

f-16 block 52 is aside from the block 60 the best fighter/tactical bomber/air superiority aircraft on the market that is 4.5 gen. (Obviously the F22 and F35 are better.) It is also very expensive.

I hope that Congress will allow its export to Iraq (many members of Congress are more pro Israel than Israel . . . and many don't trust any Arab air force with block 52s) Maybe with the Messiah in power, they will.

I wonder, does Iraq need such top of the line air superiority aircraft? What Iraq needs are quality close air support (CAS) aircraft.

jack winters, if oil breaks below $50, Zubadi will announce a new round of spending cuts for 2009 and 2010. 2009 might go from 80 billion before to 65 billion current to 50 billion. If Zubadi goes that route, expect Iraqi Air Force procurement to be delayed.

Posted by jack winters at November 7, 2008 9:51 AM ET:

(Many don't trust any Arab air force with block 52s)

Anand what are you talking about UAE has f-16 block 60, Morocco has bought f-16 block 52, Bahrain and Oman have f-16 block 50

As for (CAS) the mirage 2000-9 can cover that if my sources are right and lets face it, France makes only two aircraft the mirage and Rafale I don't think Iraq will buy Rafale so it's mirage. Don't you think so?

What do you think DJ?

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 7, 2008 12:09 PM ET:

jack winters at November 7, 2008 5:06 AM ET:

- "DJ why didn't you mention all of this in the equipment list the Helo's the trainer?? And how does lower oil prices effect the plan??"

Jack, look at the ICOD on the monthly update. It is always closed out on the morning of the 1st day of the new month before I look at the new info for that day. The pages/map were updated and in review on the 2nd with them posted on the 3rd, the initial draft went to editor on the 3rd as well.

This article is based heavily on data given in a 2 Nov brief, that I saw the video of on the 3rd and transcript on 4th. Since none of the press seemed to want to write about it, dispite both Iraqi and western reporters being at the brief, we pushed this piece thru right after the update. It was cut out of a longer analytical piece on the entire ISF's weapons orders and what they mean for stage 2. I did not think the press was going to ignore this one and was not giving it an emphasis to update at first.


- Jack addressed the F16 and is quite correct.

- As to "I wonder, does Iraq need such top of the line air superiority aircraft? What Iraq needs are quality close air support (CAS) aircraft."

If you do not have air superiority, your CAS dies fast. These purchases, with the exception of the AT-6Bs, are about national defense against an external aggressor. No Air supremicy fighters means no CAS in short order, ask the Georgian Air Force. As to CAS, the Helos and the AT-6Bs fill that role and the F-16 does carry bombs too...

- As to budget, look at the last para of the article:
"He was allowing for training time, slippage in training time, budget delays, and delays in deliveries."

The current plan is to take delivery of all these aircraft by end-2015, yet the MoD says 2018-2020 for independence. The stage 3 is the fudge-factor for slipage due to budget and delivery delays. Notice that the press report now is talking only 32 squadrons by that time, of the 38 planned, that is the slippage already occuring...


Yes. That is precisly the airframe I was looking at. No confirmation of an actual buy at this point.

Posted by anand at November 7, 2008 12:47 PM ET:

Why wouldn't France sell the Rafale to Iraq? Why wouldn't France be willing to delay its own Rafale procurement to make room for Iraq to buy some on a reasonable time from (2012 to 2015)?

jack winters, you might understand Congress better than I. Yes, Congress allowed block 60 and block 51/52 sales. Some Congresspeople, however, don't seem enthused about it. Some feel selling top caliber weapons to dictatorships is risky.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 7, 2008 12:59 PM ET:


F-22 and F35 are top shelf. F16s are a 1970s airframe upgraded to try to keep up. Rafale is not as good or flexable as 2000.

You want multi-role aircraft that can be upgraded with the times. There are reasons Rafale isn't selling...

Posted by jack winters at November 7, 2008 1:52 PM ET:

Your right DJ

But what I want to know is, if Iraq chose bell 407 when can Iraq really get it, bell Textron are having huge problems with the program. The US program to replace the OH-58 was canx. The other is the choice of the AT-6Bs which is not in production yet; I've contacted my sources and they are saying they don't know except that they said the reason for these orders could be that there are personal from Beachcraft in Iraq and personal from Textron. The other is the order from Brazil for the Tucanos we know officials from brazil met the defense minister on several occasions, so I guess the order stayed. In addition Iraq is looking very hard at the astros 2 artillery system Iraq used it in the Iraq Iran war and in the gulf and they love that system.

So do have an explanation DJ from your sources why they went that rout especially the helo's I thought they went for AH-6?

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 7, 2008 2:57 PM ET:

"...I thought they went for AH-6?" The FMS notice said 24 AH-6 or Bell 407. They were in competition for that role. The Light Attack birds and EC-635s were direct purchase and not thru US military channels.

The Iraqis are doing their own thing and part of it is to diversify the force so that items they are dependent on other countries for spares are not all from the same source country.

Note: They used to build Astros under license. They may be looking at renewing that option and opening their own manf. Jobs and self-suficency...

Posted by John Fanshawe at November 7, 2008 3:59 PM ET:

Mr. Elliott.

Thank you for your clarification. In the absence of information to the contrary, I did indeed presume that all the fighters were intended to be F-16s.

I do not mean to be confrontational Mr. Elliott nor cast aspersions on your veracity - I would suggest the general chose his words poorly, as quoted.

However, I stand by my contention that Iraq has not "ordered" any F-16s. They submitted an LOR in August of this year which is the extent of the present program. The US and Iraqi governments have numerous issues to reach consensus on specific to the capabilities of the F-16s and they are under discussion at this time. The negotiation period will likely last 18-24 months putting an "order" with Lockheed Martin conceivably in the fall of 2010.

If Iraq does intend to accelerate purchase of F-16s from a third party it will still involve the U.S. as we will play a role in the negotiated capabilities and what will be a mid-life upgrade for the equipment.

However, there is no indication that Iraq intends to purchase refurbished aircraft. They would have to identify a perspective seller, negotiate with them and then negotiate with the U.S. Upon completion the airframes would then have to undergo their mid-life upgrade.

In my analysis of a start date for delivery I was if anything, overly aggressive and suspect that 2011 is probably still several years to early for new F-16s.

When gauging how realistic the 2011-2015 timeframe is one should also consider how long it'll take to train qualified pilots for the F-16s. As I understand it our own F-16 training system is already stretched dealing with USAF needs as well as those present countries that already utilize our facilities to train their own pilots.

It is more likely that the US military will set up an indigenous training program in Iraq. Again, this will take time - approximately 2 years to train pre-cleared Iraqi fighter pilots.

As you note in your article the AT-6Bs are an integral part of the reconstruction of the IAF. For an indigenous training capability to be set up those airframes will have to be delivered for the program to start and qualified pilots to emerge.

As your clarifying comments identify, if the Iraqi's purchase French fighters too (anyone who has had to deal with French primes providing life cycle support will know what madness this is) the same considerations will have to be undertaken regarding delivery schedules and pilot training.

As to Anand's comment regarding production/assembly.

Most foreign customers require an offset agreement - that a percentage of the sales price be re-invested in the customer country - when undertaking military procurement. In the case of the F-16, Lockheed Martin has offered potential customers the option of final assembly/co-production involving some transfer of technology and process (under USG guidelines and oversight) that will reduce their offset liability.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 7, 2008 4:15 PM ET:

John Fanshawe:

You are still assuming they went thru FMS bureaucracy. While Direct Purchase still requires an export license and a contract between the GoI and Manf, it does not require the rest of the USG Jobs works bureaucrat welfare program.

The AT-6Bs and EC-635 are direct purchase, not FMS. The Iraqis got tired of the FMS paper shuffle.

The Bell 407s are the only purchase on that list that went thru that maze. Most of Iraq's purchases are not thru FMS. They like the accountability, but hate the bureaucratic delay.

As I said before, your source please? Mine is the public statement of the second ranking member of the Iraqi Armed Forces...

Posted by anthony at November 7, 2008 11:05 PM ET:

If neede, Iraq can get most of its F-16 from AMARC.

There are nearly 400 F-16s available for sale.

Posted by Joakim Ekström at November 8, 2008 7:48 AM ET:

500 fighters?!

Germany has ordered 180 Eurofighters and the UK 232. Most medium sized european nations have 20-50 fighters, or so. And Iraq 500??! Are they preparing for world war 3? Have I seriously missed something?

Is the middle east more militarized than 20th century europe?

Posted by anand at November 8, 2008 12:49 PM ET:

Iraqi Air Force is buying perhaps about 252 fighters and close air support fixed wing aircraft.

I don't think the Iraqis need that much. But Iraqis think they are surrounded by many hostile countries--Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Lebonan, and Israel. That is why the Iraqis want such a big air force. They also don't want permanent US bases, and the ability to project power beyond their borders--to Afghanistan for example.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 8, 2008 1:27 PM ET:

Joakim Ekström

1. 516 is the total aircraft buy planned for delivery between 2011-2015. Total will be over 700 aircraft in the IZAF. But they do not have an Army Air Corps, so this includes lt util aircraft, helos, recon, SAR, transports, attack and fighter. numbers above are 252 fighter aircraft.

2. With the exceptions of Jordan and Kuwait, all of Iraq's bordering countries have as many or more fighters than 252 each. You are used to the demilitarized Scandinavian/north Europe numbers of the post cold-war. There is always war in the mideast and they are militarized. Most of the countries adjacent to Iraq are not the largest in the mideast, but they are not the smallest either.

3. If Denmark, pop 5mil, can have 62 F16s for the RDAF, why can't Iraq, pop 27mil, have 252 fighters? On a per capa basis, Denmark is more miliiterized...

Posted by anand at November 8, 2008 8:10 PM ET:

Some questions on fighters?
-Why might Iraq buy the block 52 F16s instead of the block 60F16s (upgraded F16 e)?
-Is Iraq not interested in F15s because they are not as good at CAS, and better geared for Air Superiority?
-Is Iraq not buying ground version FA 18s because they are more expensive than F16s?
- How do the second tranche Eurofighters compare with F16s? Are they more expensive, and not as good at CAS?
- Are Mig 2000s cheaper? They seem better at CAS than Air to Air (are the F16s are better at air to air, and easier to fly.)
- How good are the Saab JAS 39 Gripens?

In my view, If the Iraqis are willing to wait, they should buy the F35. They could possibly book one squadrons to be delivered in 2015 (if they could accelerate the production ramp and convince another country to delay their procurement):

The F35 seems to significantly outperform every other aircraft available in every way except the F22. And even the F22 is only moderately better in air superiority. The F35 seems better at CAS and air defense suppression. (I don't know how stealthy the F35 is relative to the F22. Perhaps that is classified.)

On a completely different note, what aircraft is cheapest on a life cycle cost basis that has slight air to air capability, and is decent at CAS.

Posted by Trophy Wench at November 8, 2008 9:08 PM ET:

Whoa Anand, throw in the kitchen sink why don't ya?
F-16 B52+ versus the B60 is simply a matter of cost at this point. That's not to say that at some point the B60 versions wont ever be bought or considered to be bought, (I certainly think they will) but if they're just getting to their feet and need something to use that isn't terribly sophisticated but "good enough". (Besides, the USAF doesn't even use B60's.)

Eagles are just too expensive period ($80m a pop IIRC)

Hornets aren't a bad alternative but yes they can be pricey. In my opinion the (super) Hornet is a good alternative to a certain French fighter that I wont get to yet but $55m each its still a little too much at this point.

Typhoons are just too bloody expensive ($100m and up methinks) despite this they would really offer the best capability money can buy at this point. Case in point- Royal Saudi Air Force. As far as ground attack capability is concerned, it is just as good a multirole fighter as any F-16 or F/A-18.

the Mirages are indeed more centered around a ground attack mission more but they are pretty comparable to the F-16 in almost all respects. (cost, performance, etc.) One need only look at the Hellenic Air Force and see how well the two aircraft can work together.

The Gripens represent a budget capability Gen. 4.5 fighter. They are very good for smaller or cost oriented air forces, South Africa for example. Bottom line; they're good but if you have the money, you simply get the better plane.

The F-35 at this point is simply out of the question. The aircraft does in fact represent a destabilizing presence in the middle east even if it is stealth lite. Not to mention the flyaway costs associated with the program at this point is even causing some of the Major international partners to rethink buying the aircraft.

And finally, to answer your other question- the answer is really what they are looking at/ buying now. AT-6B and the Super Tucano. If its jets your looking for then the L-159 ALCA or Hawk 200 are fine examples.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 8, 2008 9:49 PM ET:


As TW stated, from a price-tag perspective vs capabilities, excluding Russian and Chinese since the Iraqis want to go western, the choises are limited. And F22 or F35 are not even close to an option. Those are limited export items.

Of note, the boss of the Iraqi Air Force expressed interest in F16 and F18 over a year ago. But the MoD also wants to diversify their sources, so as to not be crippled if cut off by a given country. This means they are going with F16s as their US origin fighter. Do not expect the other airframe to be US.

France has a reputation for providing arms to countries so long as they have money. French ATGWs less than 6 months old were recovered during the invasion in 2003. France was selling aircraft to Libya while the French Foriegn Legion was fighting them in northern Chad.

Sweden has export limitations that remove Grippen from the table.

Posted by anand at November 8, 2008 10:44 PM ET:


The Grippen export restrictions can be eased with cash. I understand that the Grippen was even marketed to Pakistan.

DJ I agree with you that Iraq will either go with the F16 or the F18, and not both. They don't want to invest in the training, spare parts, and infrastructure for both. It looks like they have chosen the F16.

I have been told that the F16 is easier to fly than the F18 and F15, and is perhaps designed more for ground air support functions.

Personally I think it is unfair that Israel, Turkey, Brazil, India, and Singapore are allowed to buy the F35 and Iraq isn't. As if Israel and Turkey getting F35s doesn't destabilize the middle east and Iraq getting F35s does.

A lot of grunts think that far too much is spent or fighter aircraft, and they have a point.

The F16 block 52 seems to be the cheapest aircraft available on a life cycle cost basis for its mission set and diverse capabilities. The closest competitor might be the Grippen (which is more than good enough for Iraq.) The Grippen, however, has American engines . . . so it doesn't offer political diversification. This leaves the F16 block 52 as probably the primary top line fighter in the Iraqi Air Force. The Iraqi Air Force use to fly Mirage 2000s, so maybe they will consider those.

My view is that either the L-159 ALCA or Hawk 200 is more than good enough for Iraq. They can upgrade them with better electronics, air to air missiles, and they can hold their own with Syrian or Iranian aircraft.

Don't think Iraq should waste money on anything other than a few F16 Block 52 aircraft (that can be used for air superiority and air suppression in any future hot war, while the L-159 ALCA and Hawk 200s are used for CAS.

Posted by Mark Pyruz at November 9, 2008 4:17 PM ET:

Quite a transformation envisioned for the IrAF. American fighter planes now proliferate the Middle East. Even Iran has gone to the extreme of renovating its American planes, going so far as to upgrade the F-5 into an indigenous concept.

I disagree that Iran (and the IRIAF) is the principal threat to the Iraqis, so long as the government in power is Shia.

If relations ever soured between the US and Iraq, you can bet that the Iranians would step forward with all their experience and expertise at keeping American planes flying.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 9, 2008 4:38 PM ET:


The Persian-Arab tribal feud predates Islam and trumps minor matters of religion. Iran and Iraq in one form or another have fought for over 3,000 years no matter what the religions.

Persians (Iran) think of Arabs as illiterate desert dwelling thieves and Arabs know about the Persian attitudes.

The layout, organization, and force plans of the Iraqi MoD and MoI show a focus on the Iranian and Syrian borders. The patterns,strength, and force placement are obvious. You may think what you will, but the actions of the Iraqi MoD/MoI do not support your opinion...

Posted by jack winters at November 9, 2008 5:44 PM ET:


Your right DJ the main planning is to defend against Iran no one in Iraq wants to get into problems with turkey, Syria or Saudi. So the planning is to have a force adequate enough to defend against Iran.

Back to the main topic; I've checked again with my sources they're saying the MOD is going for F-16 and It's going to be either f-16 B52 or B52+ there are differences in equipment and pricing for the two, besides Iraq wants new not used. The only two models Lockheed makes are B52 - B52+, B60. The last is out of the question because of technology issues for example B60 uses an AESA radar and the Data link 16 which are security issues the other is the maintenance.

The other new news and don't forget I broke the news about the block 52 and the mirage 2009, is the weaponry on these aircraft. Might be shocking to some but yes there is talk about them my sources again say with no certainty that the Iraqi air force is looking at either the lighting 2 pod or sniper but not sniper XL again to advanced , the other will be AMRAAM C5 not C7 , laser guided bombs and sidewinders no word on MAVERICKS.

What do you think DJ?

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 9, 2008 5:54 PM ET:


I do not see a problem with Mavericks if they are already buying Hellfire.

The tech export issue is normal. And the older versions are still better than what Iran has. Comparible with most of the rest of the neighborhood...

Do you have a cite for the comment about Astros II? I am not finding howitzer or MLRS sales despite the intention to stand those up by 2011...

Posted by anand at November 10, 2008 1:51 AM ET:

Mark Pyruz, Iraqis view Iran with suspicion, as DJ said. But the worst animosity on a popular street level is with Saudi Arabia. There is immense hostility among most Iraqis towards Saudi Arabia. Most Iraqis believe that Saudi Arabia sent thousands of suicide bombers to kill Iraqis. They also believe that the "resistance" {translation = sunni arab militias} were backed by Saudi Arabia. Jordan, Egypt and the other Sunni Arab countries are seen as allied with Saudi Arabia. Kuwaitis, for some reason, are also perceived as unbearable snobs allied with Saudi Arabia.

Syria is interesting. On one hand it is seen as backing the Baath and AQ inside Iraq. On the other hand, Syria backed ISCI/Badr, Al Dawa, Chalabi and the INC, Iraqi National Accord, Kurds, (communist party of Iraq?) and other Iraqi resistance groups against Saddam. Therefore, most Iraqis detest Syria, but Iraq's leaders are careful to avoid public criticism.

Iraq doesn't need F16 block 52s to manage Iran. Iran only has 40 Mig29s (that have supposedly been upgraded by India and Russia.) Wouldn't L-159 ALCA or Hawk 200 suffice to manage 40 Mig29s? The F 16 block 52s seem to be implicitly aimed at deterring Ottoman Turks (Kurds and Shia Iraqis view the Turks quite negatively), Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 10, 2008 2:07 AM ET:


You are assuming static situation.
There is nothing static in life.
Iran is also shopping.
And these Iraqi F16s do not start to arrive until 2011.
Do you know what will Iran be taking delivery between now and then?
I make no such claims...

Posted by anand at November 10, 2008 2:43 AM ET:

Some say Iran might buy J-10 or JF-17 Thunder Chinese aircraft. Is either aircraft any good?

Supposedly the Iranians are considering buying Mig-29SMT. However, no order seems to have been made yet. It would take many years to procure them. How good are the Mig-29SMT? Are they as good as the Grippen? (I don't think they are, but some of you know better than me.)

The only major game changer are the reports of Iran buying many Su-30s. I understand that the Su-30 is better quality than Mig-29s. Is this true? Are the Su-30 as good as a Grippen (which seems to be less capable than the F16, FA18, Eurofighter)?

Posted by jack winters at November 10, 2008 11:27 AM ET:


Sorry it took me some time to respond about the artillery, but I was checking around, what I can tell you is that there are no reliable media sources talking about this, some Iraqi media sources have said that Iraq is looking to eastern Europe for equipment including artillery but nothing specific my best guess is that Iraq is buying direct, and if I have to put money on it I would say Iraq is going for towed artillery from eastern Europe; Poland, Serbia or Slovakia.


SU 30 is one of the best aircrafts ever made by Russia, it has incredible maneuver capability, and it's better than the Grippen on many aspects but the f-16 B52 can handle a SU 30.

Posted by Mark Pyruz at November 10, 2008 3:01 PM ET:

Another issue is training of IrAF personnel. The Soviets had a harder time training the Iraqis. The US program is superior, but still the question remains how long it will take to get the IrAF up in the air on its own.

Iran has roughly 40 operational Tomcats. They also fly the American F-4 and French F-1, as well as American F-5 (which knocked out two MiG-25s during the war). Their Mig-29s are the vanilla variety. Despite media reports to the contrary, Iran hasn't been shopping for new fighters, instead electing upon refurbishment of existing stock.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 10, 2008 3:23 PM ET:

1. The number of the 72 originally bought F14As operational dropped below 20 in the 90s. Metal Fategue. The same reason the USN was reinforcing the F14As structure in the early 80s and replaced them with F14Ds and FA18s. Simular problem to the problems in the F15Cs showing up this year.

2. The Iranians are shopping because the same problem eventually grounds all aircraft. And much of the Iranian Air Force is 1970s built. The F1s are from Iraq along with the Su22s and others.

3. While the Iranians have a better maintenance program compared to most of the ME, the diminishing education level has steadily reduced that capacity...

Posted by John Fanshawe at November 10, 2008 4:44 PM ET:

Dear Mr. Elliott,

Thank you for your response.

Please note, I recognize completely the difference between a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) and a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS).

While I acknowledge your superior insight into the thinking of Iraq's Ministry of Defense and their frustrations over the FMS process (an attitude shared by many foreign customers) this sale is almost certain to be an FMS case.

That said, if it were a DCS there would still be aspects of the F-16 sale (any F-16 sale) that would be FMS - as you no doubt know well the F-16s and all its systems and munitions are made by myriad companies.

Assuming it is DCS for a moment that does not mean it will take less time to conclude the sale or that it will cost less.

On this issue of the "order", let's take it from a different angle.

If, as you quote Iraq's General Abadi's office as saying, there has been an "order" where is the Letter of Offer & Acceptance (LOA)? No LOA - no order.

For an "order" to have been placed through DSCA in the FMS process the government to government negotiations must be complete, DSCA must send the notification to the Department of State who in turn must notify Congress prior to approval. The LOA is then signed after the 30 day notification period has expired and final amendments concluded. There are several public steps involved in this process prior to the "order" including DSCA's press release. No such DSCA press release exists.

If a DCS with Lockheed Martin there would have to be an LOA negotiated prior to congressional notification (Congress mandates it). Once Congress has reviewed the sale then the contractor would be free to sign the LOA and the customer to place an "order".

In both cases, for an "order" to have been made Congress will have to have been notified and the LOA completed and signed. Iraq will also have to place a significant $$ deposit down.

As there has been no LOA, nor is one likely in the next 12-18 months, I would recommend pressing General Abadi's office over what they mean by an "order".

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 10, 2008 5:25 PM ET:

Again, no sources and incorrect data.

In a direct purchase, the GoI only needs one thing:
- A contract with the Manufacture that includes the stipulations that the primary contractor is responsible for dealing with subcontractors, obtaining export license, and obtaining end-user certificate.

That puts the paperwork in parrallel with production and has been done before. It has nothing to do with DSCA. DSCA is FMS. Most of Iraq's weapons were not thru FMS, hense no notices posted there.
(If what you claim was true and all required notification thru them, my research would be much easier...)

You are too wedded with the FMS buracracy and are not properly seperating out what requirements are FMS and what are actual export law.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 10, 2008 5:43 PM ET:

FYI, since everyone appears to be camping on this article and ignoring the monthly update:

8th Brigade of 2nd IA Division was relieved by 3rd Brigade of 1st IA Division (QRF). 8th Brigade is now in Habbenayah for 60 days training and reorganization. Also, parts of 8th Brigade are at FOB Kalsu (Home of Cdo School) receiving HMMWV maintenance training.

Also, 3rd INP Division is taking over command of eastern Mosul. Elements of 1st NPM Bde are in Mosul.

The biased press report mangled and exagerated the report into the 2nd IA Div being replaced.

Numbers of brigades identified in or enr Mosul are now up to Diyala or Basrah offensive levels...

Posted by John Fanshawe at November 11, 2008 1:18 PM ET:

Dear Mr. Elliott,

Thank you for your response.

You leave the central question unaddressed.

Iraq has no "contract with the manufacturer". It has no contract with anyone simply an LOR in the system which has the single effect of driving an inter-agency dialogue on the sale and have the contractor provide pricing and availability data to the potential customer.

For a "contract" or "order" Iraq, as I did point out above, will need to conclude a contract with either Lockheed Martin or DSCA whether going DCS or FMS respectively. In either case that "contract" cannot be signed prior to congressional notification and the conclusion of a LOA. These are both public actions which will appear in the public record.

There is no production without an LOA and a deposit. You don't initiate production of a multi-billion dollar order for a complex weapons system while you're in the process of negotiating the terms and conditions of the contract. It's against US law (as Congress must review any sale of military hardware and cannot do so until the LOA is negotiated) and would never be accepted by a commercial company undertaking the financial risk inherent in such an action.

I don't quibble with Iraq's desire to avoid FMS. However, if it wants to buy F-16s there is going to be an FMS aspect to some of what goes on the F-16 whether it's Iraq, Turkey, UAE or any other present or future customer.

I'll leave it here Mr. Elliott. I'm not sure how useful it is to keep at this. When you next have an opportunity to interact with the Iraqi military, I would recommend pressing them on their assertion that they have 36 F-16s on order for delivery in 2011. I think you'll find it's news to USG and Lockheed Martin.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 11, 2008 2:08 PM ET:

Fair enough.

Two details:
1. The money is already in US banks, most of the Iraqi surplus funds are.
2. The LOA does not have to be public or posted. The LOA for the sale of much of Iraq's US origin materials are not. (E.G. ~100 M113s, 8,500 HMMWVs, 24 LAT, etc.)

This can be debated until hard data pro/con shows up and settle nothing. The reality is that the details are not as hard and fast, or as public, in practice as you believe. If they were, I would have much more precise data on the Iraqi inventory. DSCA is on my daily check list for anything new posted...

Posted by anand at November 11, 2008 4:30 PM ET:

Thanks for the update on the 8th Bde DJ. Suspect it is being upgraded, maybe to air borne air assault commando.

2nd IAD's 5th and 8th Bde's need more non Kurds in them. This is good for the IA. Some of th 8th bde's Kurdish quality experienced cadre (who are transfered out of 8th Bde) can be used to augment the capabilities of the ITDC (Iraqi Training and Doctrine Command), ISC, Corps HQs, Corps QRF brigades, and other forming units.

One problem I see is that the IA doesn't have enough Kurds:
31% Sunni Arab (versus 18% share of Iraq's population)
15% Kurds (versus 20% of Iraq's population)

Note that 3% of Iraqis are Shia Kurds.

The IA needs more Kurds. This is why I don't think that two additional KRG divisions should be added to the IA after 15th and 16th IADs. Better that they are split up and used to fill out other IA units.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 11, 2008 5:06 PM ET:


Iraqi politics and IA policy. First 2 years with the division of your choise, then you can be transfered anywhere. And the KRG will want to keep their "Mountain" divisions in KRG. So they will be phased in as intact Kurdish Divs and then, after 2 years you will start seeing balancing. One of the reasons I suspect the 15th Mountain Div will join QRF Corps, is to facilitate that balancing.

Note: They are still negotiating the transfer of the KRG SP Div to the INP as well.

Posted by Mark Pyruz at November 11, 2008 8:54 PM ET:

80 Tomcats were ordered. 79 were delivered. 5 were downed during the war.

Based upon serials found on recent pics and video, more than 40 IRIAF Tomcats have been identified as operational and sporting the new low-vis blue camo scheme.

BTW: IRIAF Tomcats scored over 150 kills during the Iran-Iraq War.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 11, 2008 11:18 PM ET:

Mark Pyruz

Propaganda. Most Iranian press is. Government owned. BuNos can be repainted and the actual permanent numbers are not visible in flight. They have 10-14 operational at most.

They were down to 26 operational by 1984 when I was on Gonzo Station with VF-213 on the USS Enterprise (2nd deployment for me). They claim 150 kills, they were already out of US AAMs by that time and never had AIM54s. They were refiting what was left for Soviet missiles. Two of Iraq's Mig-25 Recce birds were killed by Tomcats with AIM-7s.

By 1986 they were testing firing Standard and I-Hawk from F4s and F14s. I know this because I was involved in the debrief of one of the Iranian Pilots that flew the test flights. He defected in late 86. At that point only 21 F-14s were operational (34 F4s and 36 F5s).

During Sep87-Sep88, I was in the gulf on Mideastfor staff I&W. They had 18-20 F14s still operational and were rebuilding stored airframes with parts from overstressed airframes. The F14s were being employed as mini-AWACS since they did not have missiles that functioned well with them. This also reduced the airframe stress by keeping them out of ACM.

The number was still holding at 20 with fewer and fewer salvagable airframes left during my 93 and 94 gulf deployments on the USS Independence. That number had dropped to 10-14 by the time I retired in 2003.

Airframes wear out. Metal Fategue. And the F-14As had a long-term flaw that caused them to disintegrate in flight that showed up in USN F14s in 1984. The Iranian ones took longer to reach that stage than the USN because they didn't do carriers.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 12, 2008 12:03 AM ET:

PS That sort of disinformation propaganda is old. It was old when Rommel used it to exagerate the DAK's strength on arrival in Tripoli...

Or when Stalin had the same 6 M4 Bisons fly-by with different color schemes thruout the May-day Parade, giving the impression thay had 30-40...

Posted by anand at November 12, 2008 1:22 AM ET:

"IRIAF Tomcats scored over 150 kills during the Iran-Iraq War." :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

That was a good one. I am with DJ on this. Maybe Press TV added an extra zero, hey ;-)

Iran hasn't had a way to maintain their F14s since the Israelis stopped helping them in the 1980s. I wouldn't worry about them.

I wonder how upgraded Iran's 40 Mig 29s are. Supposedly India and Russia upgraded them, but I question how much.

Given India's association with Iran (since they both backed the Northern Alliance, Karzai government, both fought anti Shia AQ linked networks (LEJ, SS), and shared a common perspective on Pakistan), you would be surprised by the extent to which many in India do not trust Iran. I sincerely doubt India upgraded Iran's Mig 29s with anything too advanced. That is probably true for Russia too. No one really trusts Khamenei.

Would Russia really sell a large number of Su-30? Can Iran even afford them with oil below $60 a barrel? My sense is that the Russian government would rather embrace the Iraqi government than the Iranian government.

Posted by anand at November 12, 2008 1:24 AM ET:

DJ, Bill Roggio, and the rest of the LWJ:

Is there a way to automatically e-mail additional comments on a particular article's comment section to all previous commentators, who want to be e-mailed? Most other blogs allow this.

Posted by Marcello at November 12, 2008 1:21 PM ET:

"I would say Iraq is going for towed artillery from eastern Europe; Poland, Serbia or Slovakia."

The problem is that the artillery parks of those countries are still built around soviet models and calibers.
They can build some pretty good western compatible self propelled artillery (not sure of what they have in the towed range) but they do not have
a large stock at hand of surplus 155mm towed guns that can be provided quickly and cheaply.
If they want a sizable artillery force from those countries in short order they will have to stick to soviet weapons.

Posted by jack winters at November 12, 2008 3:00 PM ET:

Hi All

A couple of important news the Iraqi government has approved the budget for 2009 it's better than expected around 79B USD, 62 B running cost and 17 B for investment

The other big news is that the Iraqi gov is paying the sons of Iraq their salaries same amount that the US used to pay

BASRA Airport including the military airfield will be transferred to Iraqi control from the Brits in a few weeks

And the most important for us I guess is that today on Iraqi T.V the 17 Division engineering company built a bridge across a small river in southern Iraq using a German made assembly bridge they assembled the bridge in record time. And on T.V it looked brand new

Good news DJ what do you think?

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 12, 2008 3:15 PM ET:

Most of our allies are leaving before the UN Mandate expires Jan 1. The UK might last until next summer. That is part of the reason we only trimmed one US combat brigade in this cycle. We were losing 3 coalition brigade equivalents in the same time that we trimmed the one US brigade.

As to the engineers, the current emphasis is on engineering and the 6th Const Engr Bn was over-strength prepatory to providing cadre for 17th spliting off. And the Germans have been selling or contributing support equipment all along. Most of 17th MTR is donated German trucks...

Posted by Joakim Ekström at November 12, 2008 6:02 PM ET:

Does anyone have an update on the situation in Mosul? Is U.S. forces on track to shift out of the city by summer?

Posted by anand at November 13, 2008 2:34 AM ET:

Joakim Ekström, Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC) for Ninevah (whose capital is Mosul) is scheduled for January/February. 9010 Report listed January, but I am allowing a delay to accommodate the 1.31.09 provincial elections.

PIC means that all security in the province are handled by the ISF. All MNF missions need to be requested by the PM and provincial governor.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 13, 2008 3:36 AM ET:

Joakim Ekström

There is only one US combat brigade in Ninawa.
3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
And only one US combat battalion in Mosul.
3rd Squadron, 3ACR...

It is looking like MND-N is reducing to only three "combat" brigades this year and MND-N includes Ninawa, Kirkuk, Salahadin, and Diyala Provinces...
(EG: The 1/10 BCT was relieved by 18th Engineer Brigade this month, in Kirkuk.)

Posted by Mark Pyruz at November 14, 2008 11:08 PM ET:

For IRIAF victories during the war, check out: lists databases of most modern aerial engagements. One of the editors, Tom Cooper, is the author of Osprey's Iranian F-14 Tomcats in action and Iranian F-4 Phantom IIs in action.

Tom Cooper is also the editor of the ACIG forum and linked to this post in the category Iraqi Air Force.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 15, 2008 1:33 PM ET:


The first thing I do when looking at a source of info is to check the footnotes. Where did they get their data? No verifiable sourcing means unconfirmed.

That is part of the reason the ISF OOB has such a long and growing notes page, despite my cleaning out OBE entries each month. I verify my data and do not trust single source material...

That is why you see terms like unconfirmed, probable, and possible in my writing. They have strict defined meanings...

Posted by Brandon at November 18, 2008 6:01 PM ET:

As long as they arn't stronger then the use air force I have no complaints.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 18, 2008 6:16 PM ET:


Not even close to being an issue.

The Marine element of US Naval Aviation would out gun the planned Iraqi Air Force at full strength.

As to how "advanced" the F16s are, they are what is being replaced with F22/F35 in the USAF...

There are only two countries in the world that have numbers comparable in their air forces: Russia and China.

Only five countries in the world build 85% of the world's combat aircraft: US, Russia, China, France, and UK.

Posted by Joakim Ekström at November 19, 2008 1:38 PM ET:

I read on that the 2nd Battalion, 30th Brigade, 8th IA Division has rotated out of battle and gone for a period of time to a training center. I think it's really a great sign of progress. The force generation pace is coming down a bit to more sustainable levels and the IA can put more emphasis on force quality.

When you have enough resources so that you can continuously invest a percentage and get progressively increasingly returns, that's when an enterprise really starts to take off.

Posted by DJ Elliott at November 19, 2008 3:12 PM ET:

Joakim Ekström

Rotating bns off the line for training has become standard in most of the divisions. The exception has been 2nd IA Div in Mosul. This is why they finally pulled the 8th Bde from Mosul for 60 days training, to properly reset them. And 3/1 (QRF3) temporarily replaces tham in Mosul.

The "Warfighter" refresure training and its sub-sets started last winter. It also includes issuing additional vehicles to bns short of complement...

PS Look under Iraqi Army Training from the Monthy Update published early this month.

Posted by Raymond Turney at February 28, 2009 6:35 PM ET:


I'm a long way from being an expert on modern military aircraft, but the military history I have read suggests that pilot quality was at least as important as, if not more important than aircraft quality. In WWII, being a better pilot wouldn't save you if you were in a CR42 against a Hurricane, but Me109 versus Hurricane would usually be decided by tactical doctrine and pilot quality.

Is this still true?

If it is still true, how important is F-16 Block 52 vs. Block 60, Versus Mirage versus Su-30 MKI, etc?


PS - my apologies to DJ for incorrectly citing him when this article supported the opposite of my opinion in another forum.

Posted by DJ Elliott at February 28, 2009 6:46 PM ET:

Pilot quallity is still a trump card, So long as the aircraft are within a generation of each other.

A good pilot flying an older generation aircraft against a poor pilot flying a newer aircraft is a toss up that is highly situational dependent.

Training and experience to build the IZAF up will take more than a decade...