Iraqi ISR Aircrews Finish Training

The first class of 16 Iraqi Air Force airmen who will operate that fledgling air arm’s King Air intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft completed their year-long training program under the tutelage of US Air Force and Navy instructors May 17, graduating during a ceremony at New Al Muthana AB, Iraq. The four pilots, seven co-pilots, and five sensor operators will be part of the IqAF’s Squadron 87, which has already used its five King Airs to patrol the country’s borders and provide overhead coverage during elections and religious pilgrimages. Col. John Rutkowski, commander of the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, said he expects it to take another year of US instruction before the Iraqi squadron is fully operational and can function independently. By that time, the unit is expected to have 10 trained aircrews. The squadron is today “about at the half way point,” he said. (New Al Muthana report by SSgt. Tim Beckham)