June 28, 2014

Russia delivers first of five Sukhoi SU-25 ground attack fighters to Iraq

Iraqi Air Force Su-25 buried in desert - 2003

According to a video released by the Iraqi defense ministry, a Russian Federation Air Force Antonov AN-124 (NATO: Condor) heavy transport aircraft delivered the first two of five Sukhoi SU-25 (NATO: Frogfoot) ground attack aircraft to an unidentified Iraqi air base.

The used fighter aircraft were purchased in the last few days to react to the threat posed by advancing forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and [Greater] Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressed frustration at the long delivery schedule of the Iraqi Air Force American-built F-16 fighters. The F-16 fighters are not due to be delivered to Iraq until this fall, although some of the aircraft have been turned over to the Iraqi Air Force for training in Texas.

The SU-25 had been in service with the pre-American invasion Iraqi Air Force - at one point, as many as 66 of the fighters were in the Iraqi inventory. None survived the two wars with the United States - some were buried in the desert as a survival measure (see above photo). It is a capable close air support fighter.

On hand to greet the arriving aircraft was Iraqi Air Force commander Staff Lieutenant General (Pilot) Anwar Hamad Amin. According to the general (interviewed in the video), the aircraft will be reassembled by "our friends the Russians" and will be ready to enter service in the coming three to four days, after which they will be used to attack "terrorist ISIS takfiri criminal forces," specifically citing ISIS forces in Salah al-Din province (basically the Tigris valley between Baghdad and Mosul).

When asked about maintenance and support for the aircraft, General Anwar said that the Iraqi Air Force has long experience with this (aircraft), and together with the Russian "experts" the logistics and maintenance will not be an issue. Also, he said that though the Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army Aviation have struck ISIS targets in the past few days, the addition of these aircraft will provide a greater attack capability.