Iraqi COIN Air Assets on the Way:

Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Allardice, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team, told Pentagon reporters March 17 that the Iraqi Air Force is focused on increasing its combat mobility mission but is also beginning to train and prepare for increased offensive operations. The IAF plans to begin receiving a “more complex and sophisticated” aircraft that is specifically designed for the counter terror mission in 2009, he said. “We are trying to help them to develop their own requirements,” he added. Coalition advisers recommend an aircraft that has a long loiter time, is simple to maintain, and has a relatively precise strike capability. Allardice said he expects that the platform chosen will be able to fire Hellfire missiles since the weapon is versatile and can easily integrate on various types of aircraft. Concurrent to pursuing the new counterinsurgency airplane, the Iraqis are training and preparing to make a “significant kinetic contribution” to the counterinsurgency effort by the end of this year, with their existing aircraft, he said. Currently the IAF has 59 aircraft and plans to have around 100 by the end of the year. By the end of 2008, the IAF’s Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft will be able to fire ordnance, as will one of its helicopter types, he said. The IAF currently flies UH-1 Hueys, Bell JetRangers, and Mi-17s. Allardice said the Iraqi Caravan aircraft are almost like a “manned Predator,” in that it is a cheap platform that provides the same kind of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance coverage. The Caravan uses the same type of engine as the Beechcraft King Air 350, which the Iraqis fly for ISR missions. This simplifies maintenance issues, since many of their platforms use the same engine, he said. (For more read Building an Iraqi Air Force)