In August 1990, Iraq’s Air Force had more than 500 aircraft in their inventory. The IqAF was decimated in 1991, after Saddam invaded Kuwait and ended up facing the US military and its allies. What remained was hobbled by extensive, and expensive, no-fly zones, until the war formally concluded in 2003 with a US-led invasion that eliminated Saddam’s regime. Rebuilding the IqAF under the new Iraqi government has been a slow process.
The C-130 Hercules was an early player in Iraq’s rebuilt air force, which remains small and focused on transport and surveillance missions. Positive experiences with the IqAF 23rd Sqn.’s 3 refurbished C-130Es, which fly from Baghdad International Airport, led Iraq to make a formal sale request for new C-130J-30s in July 2008. That was followed by a series of contracts for the planes, and the things that go with them. Deliveries, on the other hand, have taken until 2012. Even so, the most important deliveries under the contract are not planes.