Iraq Rearmament Program Heavy on Weapons, Short on Logistics

Iraq Rearmament Program Heavy on Weapons, Short on Logistics

Despite flat oil exports and a struggling economy, Iraq has embarked on a comprehensive program to re-arm its embattled security forces. The country is buying American patrol planes, Italian naval vessels, Russian helicopters and armored vehicles co-produced by American and British firms. The new equipment is utilitarian stuff -- optimized for patrols in and over Iraq's teeming cities and on its smuggler-infested waters rather than for attacks on external foes -- and reflects the complete inward focus of Iraq's military. But the purchases do little to solve the forces' nearly complete lack of logistics capability.

In early January, working through the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the U.S. Air Force, Iraq ordered six Raytheon King Air 350 twin-engine turboprop airplanes worth a combined $132 million dollars. Five of the planes will be fitted with cameras for the surveillance role supporting Iraqi ground forces. The other will be configured as a transport.

The King Air order significantly bolsters the tiny Iraqi air force, which has been rebuilt from scratch after its Soviet-made fighter jets were destroyed or grounded in the course of two wars and a decade of sanctions. Before the King Airs, the new Iraqi air force flew just eight SAMA CH-2000s and two Seabird SB7L-360 Seekers -- both single-engine and Jordanian-built -- and seven single-prop Comp Air 7SLs. These surveillance aircraft, donated by the United States and Jordan, are marginal performers. "With a bit of a headwind, we get passed by cars on the road," says U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kelly Latimer, an advisor to the Iraqi air force.

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