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Iraqi Air Force's New Wings

All the attention is on the army and police, right now. But Iraq's tiny air force is about to get a bit bigger, C4ISR Journal reports:king_air_b200_back.gif

Working through the U.S. Air Force, Iraqs nascent defense ministry has ordered six new Raytheon King Air 350 twin turboprop aircraft and related support services in a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $132 million. Disclosed by the Defense Department, the deal includes five King Air 350 Extended Range aircraft equipped for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and a single King Air 350 earmarked for the light transport role. Support equipment, spare and repair parts, training and technical data are included in the sales package.
The new planes will be operated, in part, by 70 Squadron based at Basra Air Station. In October, U.S. Air Force advisor Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Latimer showed me the squadron's modest fleet of single-engine Seeker and CH-2000 patrol planes, which she said could be outrun by cars. The King Airs are faster, can carry more surveillance gear and have longer legs but are still simple and robust enough for the Iraqi Air Force to keep flying.$1 billion in arms sales to the Iraqi government, including the King Airs, helped the United States achieve record arms sales in 2006, as my boss Sharon Weinberger reported recently in Aviation Week:
[One] factor driving the bottom line is Iraq. Its sovereign government is now able to buy equipment directly from the U.S. [Jeffrey] Kohler, [director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency] says Iraq is allocating about $1 billion a year out of its own budget to purchase defense equipment--and about $800 million has gone for U.S. equipment this year alone. With Iraq expecting to allocate $1 billion annually to arms purchases, such large buys from the U.S. could grow.
--David Axe
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