Moscow and Baghdad have reached a major weapons deal for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, with the $4.2 billion-plus pact including the purchase of 30 Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters.

An agreement to buy the aircraft and 42 Pantsir air defence systems was reached during an official visit to the Russian capital by Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a report by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Iraq attempted to acquire an export version of the Mi-28A several years ago, but the deal was cancelled.

The Russian air force is the lone operator of the Mi-28, and plans to eventually field 200 of the type. The service has an active fleet of 64 N-model examples, as recorded by Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database.

 Mi-28N pair - Russian Helicopters

Russian Helicopters

Iraq traditionally purchased much of its military equipment from Russia, with roughly $30.5 billion having been spent over 30 years during the Soviet era. Its previous deals included around 1,000 fixed-wing aircraft and almost 350 helicopters, plus air-defence systems, ground vehicles and warships.

Among Baghdad's reasons for resuming orders are that the Iraqi armed forces are used to using Russian equipment, and a desire to diversify its weapons suppliers. Most of the aircraft ordered since Hussein's removal from power have been sourced from the USA.

It is also seeking to restore ties with Moscow due to instability in the Middle East, including civil war in neighbouring Syria and the international isolation of Iran.

Source: Flight International