Thursday, September 16, 2004

Here's some news that you won't hear about

Iraqi Air Force Conducts First Solo Operational Mission
By U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Zabaldo / Multinational Security Transition Command, Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 16, 2004 — The Iraqi air force conducted its first solo operational flight in southern Iraq, Sept. 15, with the flight of one of the country’s two SB7L-360 Seeker reconnaissance aircraft, flying over infrastructure assets in the area.

Prior to the mission, multinational force trainers accompanied all flights; the trainers assisted the Iraqi government train and mentor the country’s pilots and support personnel .

The flight, a two-hour reconnaissance mission in the early morning hours manned by two Iraqi pilots from Iraqi Air Force Squadron 70, was reportedly successful, ultimately providing intelligence on an expanding oil pipeline spill in the region.

“It may seem a simple step, but it is a huge deal for the people of Iraq,” Iraqi Air Force Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Kamal Al-Barzanjy, a former pilot in Iraq’s old air force.

“It is a step forward in a good direction - the right direction,” Al-Barzanjy said.

The air force, still in its early stages of development, currently consists of two aircraft with the first deliveries of another eight similar planes slated to begin arriving in November.

The force of 10 should receive another eight similarly fitted reconnaissance aircraft in the coming months, in addition to delivery of a gift from the United Arab Emirates of four helicopter and eight aircraft in December.

The Iraqi air force currently stands at roughly 160 pilots and support personnel.

“These Seekers,” Al-Barzanjy said, describing the light reconnaissance Australian-made aircraft, “give us three types of reconnaissance: visual, video, and infrared night vision.
“So they will help to protect our oil, electricity, borders, and other different important places,” he said.

The single-engine Seeker aircraft include live observation feedback capabilities to ground forces and also carry digital video recording hardware and other reconnaissance technology. Their employ will be coordinated with Iraqi and multinational force efforts on the ground and will eventually include operations all over the country as the Iraqi government deems necessary.

Pilots from the flight reported that they were extremely proud to be patrolling the skies over Iraq.

“Eventually we will have aircraft from the south to the north of Iraq,” Al-Barzanjy said.

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