In July 2008, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Iraq’s formal request to buy 24 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters that act as scouts, perform light close air support, and escort other helicopters on dangerous missions. The DSCA documents also included requests for airborne weapons – which would be a new capability for the nascent post-Saddam air force.
At the time of the requests, the IqAF relied on a small force of Russia’s popular Mi-8/17s, and a handful of refurbished Bell “Huey II” helicopters. While the Russian helicopters can be armed, their status as Iraq’s only medium utility helicopters makes them a poor fit for an ARH role. Instead, Iraq chose between 2 competitors. Bell’s 407 bears a close resemblance to the OH-58 scout helicopters used by the US Army, and the 407-derived ARH-70A won the American ARH competition before running into trouble. Boeing’s AH-6 “Little Bird” light attack helicopters are used by US Special Forces, are very effective in urban settings, and provided critical fire support during the 1991 “Blackhawk Down” incident. Iraq went on to pick Bell as its its ARH winner.