Air Force Wraps Up Iraqi Deployment

Maj. Gen. Russell Handy – Commander, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, and Director, Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq, spoke with reporters from Baghdad today and discussed both the U.S. Air Force efforts in Iraq and those of the Iraqi Air Force as the 2008 security agreement between the two nations winds down. All U.S. forces will have left Iraq by December 31 and the security of that nation will be fully in the hands of its own military.

With the numbers changing daily, MG Handy reported that twelve bases remain either under U.S. control or joint control. Six of those bases are air bases. About 30,000 American troops remain, and around 2,000 of them are from the Air Force.

The U.S. Air Force continues to provide force protection for American bases and troops on the ground despite the low numbers of personnel in country. Handy stressed that the Air Force’s superior aerial refueling capabilities and command and control allow the mission to be performed by aircraft stationed throughout the region. This overwatch will continue until the last member of the U.S. military leaves Iraq.

The general talked about the structure of the Iraqi military’s air components. The Iraqi Air Force has just over 70 fixed wing aircraft and about 5,000 personnel. The Army Aviation Command has about 90 helicopters and around 2,500 personnel. These units also provide aviation assets for the use of the Ministry of Interior and the police forces.

The IAF has three C-130E cargo aircraft. They are buying six C-130J aircraft that will complete that squadron. The C130’s and Army Aviation helicopters are in general use moving personnel and cargo around Iraq.

The Iraqi Air Force has no fighter aircraft. Ten Iraqi pilots are currently beginning training to fly the F-16 in the United States. The IAF is buying a number of F-16’s with the first to be delivered in late 2014 or early 2015. Air defense radars are being installed and Iraqis trained in their use.

Major General Handy stressed that, at this time, there are no agreements beyond December 31, 2011. The defense of Iraq will be in the hands of its military. Within the U.S. Mission to Iraq will be the Office of Security Cooperation that will handle any arms sales to the country by the United States. That office will have a yet to be determined number of U.S. military personnel with experience in contract management and purchasing. The number of such U.S. military personnel will be somewhere in the 100 to 200 range.

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