Iraq’s air force has been very slow in getting to its feet. A handful of Seeker light observation aircraft with their distinctive bubble-shaped fronts, a few Comp Air light propeller aircraft, a couple of old, refurbished C-130E transports, and a slowly growing fleet of helicopters. A few Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s have been ordered for transport and surveillance duties, and an RFP for armed counterinsurgency aircraft has only given Iraq a set of unarmed T-6B trainers. Even subsequent orders for F-16C/D fighters and L-159 advanced trainer and attack jets leave the Iraqi air force a long way from being able to secure Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While it continues to grow<, the IqAF’s primary duties remain troop/medical transport, light supply duties, and surveillance of roads and infrastructure.
That kind of surveillance doesn’t require high tech, high-end aircraft. The USAF was using F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft at $15,000 per flight hour, plus recapitalization amortization. Iraq’s solution takes a page from the US military’s own past, and offers a significant contrast to the American approach.