Time to Get “Creative”

As we reported Wednesday, the Iraqi Air Force would like to have fighter aircraft, including perhaps US F-16s, to build an air defense arsenal after US forces depart, but there is some concern about providing advanced fighters. However, for the short term, according to Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, the US does plan to send a USAF team to make some recommendations. US forces are slated to leave by 2011, which doesn’t really leave enough time to field a fighter aircraft force, including requisite training and infrastructure development. Odierno was talking with reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who met with Iraqi officials July 28. Gates said that he actually expects to be able to speed up the shift of combat brigades out of Iraq. Odierno told the reporters, “We’re going to bring this team over here to try and get them some creative solutions that might allow them to have some capacity by 2011.” He did not rule out Iraq acquiring retired USAF F-16s or foreign fighters as part of the solution. (AFPS July 28 report and July 29 report)