The Iraqi and US air forces have launched a collaborative programme under which the former service will introduce 160 new pilots each year using an eventual fleet of 48 training aircraft.
A first intake of 10 Iraqi students began classroom instruction at Kirkuk air base on 1 October, with four also given the opportunity to fly one of the air force's new Cessna 208 Caravans.
© US Air Force
Iraq's new flight-training school will in time produce 80 fixed-wing and 80 rotary-wing pilots per year, and deliveries of its aircraft inventory are scheduled to conclude by late 2008, says Lt Col Mark Bennett, commander of the US Air Force's 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron. The fleet will comprise 12 Cessna 172s, five Cessna 208s, 12 Bell 206 JetRangers, 10 Bell UH-1Hs and nine Mil Mi-17s.
At least 11 of the aircraft have already been delivered, including three Cessna 208s, which have been equipped with turret-housed electro-optical sensors, communications equipment and countermeasures suites to provide self-protection during training sorties and other operations.
The new school will also be used to train Iraqi instructors, maintenance, intelligence and logistics personnel, says Bennett, who adds: "Kirkuk may be the first air base returned to Iraqi control." The Iraqi air force has recently received other Western equipment, including three ex-USAF Lockheed Martin C-130E transports.