New Iraqi Air Force slowly coming online

Iraqi Air Force gets Mi-17 ‘Hip’ helicopters
By Capt Russ Cook
MNSTC-I Coalition Air Force
Transition Team

iraqihip.jpgFrom the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq “Advisor” newsletter:

NEW AL MURTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq — A Russian Antonov 124 transport plane lumbered across the flightline towards New Al Muthana Air Base Feb. 17 and unloaded four tightly packed Mi-17 “Hip” helicopters; freshly painted and ready to join the fight against the insurgency in Iraq. The four helicopters were an addition to another four which previously arrived on Feb. 14.

The Mi-17 is the first weapon system that the Iraqi Air Force has acquired and funded without direct coalition involvement. A total of ten Mi-17s are expected to be on the ground and operational within a few months. According to the office of the Iraqi Air Force Director of Engineering, the Iraqi Air Force chose the Mi-17 because it was simple, capable and had been fl own by Iraq in the past.

The Mi-17s are brand new, dual engine helicopters capable of lifting 4000 kilograms of cargo, 30 combat troops or 20 patients. The aircraft are configured for transport roles and VIP use. The helicopters were purchased from
Poland along with a one year maintenance contract and training for its air crews. An important stipulation of the purchase was that the Hips had zero flying hours, ensuring a fresh start for the new Air Force.

The Mi-17s will receive some basic upgrades at New Al Muthana Air Base. The fleet will be moved to Taji Air Base for permanent basing. The Iraqi Air Force has plans to increase its fleet of Mi-17s to 24 by mid-2007. They
will be joined by 16 newly upgraded Huey IIs and five Bell 206 Jet Rangers.

The new helicopters will increase the battlefield mobility capability of the new Iraqi Air Force and mark the beginning of their move toward becoming an independent air arm.

Also from the”Advisor”: Helicopter pilot is role model to Iraqi, Coalition Airmen
By U.S. Air Force
Senior Airman Mark Woodbury
MNSTC-I Public Affairs

NEW AL MURTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq — An Iraqi helicopter pilot has become both a role model and mentor for the airmen who work within Iraqi Air Force Squadron 2. Iraqi Air Force Maj. Sadun, IAF Squadron 2 test pilot, has won respect from his colleagues by being consistently reliable when it comes to his ethical values, according to his co-workers.

“Sadun is a good pilot and is respected by all of the maintenance warrant officers,” said Iraqi Maj. Abbas, Squadron 2 maintenance officer. “His professionalism and trust in the people he works with have made him a role
model for others in the squadron.”

A Coalition maintenance member, who works with Sadun and the Iraqi airmen who maintain the helicopters he flies, says his work ethic is a cut above the rest. “He is always ready and prepared for the missions he flies,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony Michael, Coalition Air Force Transition Team helicopter maintenance
advisor. “He is a great pilot whose work standards stand out against his peers.”

Sadun started his military career in the former regime’s Air Force where he flew Mi-17 helicopters. According to Sadun, he was liberated from Abu Ghraib Prison by Coalition forces in 2003 after being confined by former regime leaders for refusing to follow an order to fi re on Iraqi Kurds. During his time in Abu Ghraib Prison, Sadun made a reluctant friend with a university professor who helped him make his time in prison an opportunity to learn a new skill.

“At fi rst the professor did not want to be bothered with me,” said Sadun. “I was able to begin the friendship by asking him about his prior teaching experiences and asking him about his family.” Sadun said the idea that closed the deal on their friendship was when he reminded the professor that teaching him English would be a good way to pass their prison time quicker.

A Coalition training advisor for the Iraqi squadron said when he was told of Sadun’s prison experience he was amazed at how he made something positive out of it. “As a result of him learning English in prison, it has made him an extremely valuable asset to his country,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Russ Cook, MNSTC-I Coalition Air
Force Transition Team helicopter pilot advisor. “This would not have been the case had he not been studious and diligent in prison.” Sadun’s ability to stand up for the principles he knows to be right has helped him get instant respect from both the Iraqi and Coalition Airmen he works with, said Michael.

After his liberation from the prison, Sadun was incorporated into the current Iraqi Air Force as a test pilot for two different helicopter airframes the force currently flies. A father of five kids — three girls and two boys — Sadun feels it is his personal responsibility to be a part of providing a safer Iraq to them.

“It is my duty to protect my country and children from terrorists,” said Sadun. “I know the things the Coalition troops are teaching and equipping me right now are helping me with this goal.” Sadun says that he is glad to provide
leadership and mentorship to the younger Iraqi airmen. He says the future of the force is in the hands of the young airmen coming into the force, and he feels the equipment and training they are receiving from the Coalition
forces will continue to make the Iraq Air Force stronger.

“The ways of thinking in the old Iraqi Armed Forces needed to be changed,” said Sadun. “The new airmen are being taught and trained in a way that allows the [Iraqi] Air Force to become much more powerful than we were under the old regime.”