In counter-insurgency fights, slower aircraft are often better than front-line jet fighters. In April 2007, Flight International reported that the USAF’s Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) had issued a solicitation on behalf of the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) to buy at least 8 counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft, with a dual role as intermediate to advanced single-engine turboprop trainers. The solicitation required a single-engine turboprop powered that is in “wide use,” powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 family engine, with an advanced suite of sensors and weapons including electro-optical sensors and guided weapons capability. Indeed, the solicitation went one step further, and narrowed the field to 4 candidates that can be difficult for a novice to tell apart.
The program’s planned timeline hit delays, and the training aircraft were technically split from the counter-insurgency buy. Formal requests were issued in 2008 for up to 56 aircraft, as Iraq sought a combination of trainer and armed COIN aircraft, using different variants of the same plane. The trainers have all arrived. The armed turboprop buy remains in limbo – but was renewed in 2014.