July 2, 2014

Is Iran delivering fighter aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force?

Iranian IRGC Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 - note IRGC logo on tail

A video posted on July 1 on several websites claims - mistakenly, I believe - to be in-flight footage of the former Russian Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO: Frogfoot) fighter aircraft that were delivered to Iraq on June 28. Getting the aircraft into the air that quickly would be impressive. For information on that delivery, please see my article, Russia delivers first of five Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack fighters to Iraq.

According to the aviation enthusiast website The Aviationist, which has been very accurate in this type of reporting in the past, seven Iranian Su-25's from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Air Force have deployed to Imam 'Ali air base (formerly called Tallil AB, near al-Nasiryah in southern Iraq.)

Imam 'Ali air base

According to The Aviationist, the seven aircraft included four Su-25KM and three Su-25UBKM - the KM indicates an upgraded variant of the ground attack/close air support fighter; the UB indicates a two-seat trainer version of that same variant.

In this video from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense - captioned "Arrival of the second batch of Sukhoi aircraft to Iraqi territory", two Iraqi lieutenant generals, including the commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Staff Lieutenant General (Pilot) Anwar Hamid Amin (the second speaker) are on hand to welcome and accept delivery of the aircraft.

The generals explain that this is the second batch of five (sic) Su-25 fighter aircraft that will provide added capability to support Iraqi ground forces. They claim the aircraft have entered service and will begin flying combat and reconnaissance sorties as early as tomorrow. According to the air force commander, Iraqi pilots will be flying within 72 hours against ISIS and al-Qa'idah wherever they are in Iraq.

What the generals fail to mention is where the aircraft came from. They obviously just flew in - they were not delivered by cargo aircraft as the first delivery on Saturday night. At 3:40 in the video, you can see the traditional welcoming firehose spray - a short flight from an Iranian air base makes sense.

A still photograph from the video:

Compare the photo at the beginning of the article - it is an IRGC AF Su-25UBKM - with the photograph of the aircraft that has just been flown to Iraq. Note the style of number on the nose, and the present lack of the IRGC logo on the tail.

I do have a question about the Iraqi pilots. The Su-25 aircraft has not been in the Iraqi inventory for at least a decade - are their pilots still qualified to fly the latest variants of this aircraft? Did they receive training in Russia, or possibly Iran? How long has this aircraft delivery been in the works?

Remember that in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi President Saddam Husayn ordered his air force to fly over a hundred aircraft to Iran to prevent their destruction by American air power. Of those, seven were Su-25 fighters. Coincidence that seven were just delivered (or returned)?

Has the "Shi'a Air Force" now arrived in Iraq?

ADDENDUM: It appears that the BBC agrees with my analysis.
'Iranian attack jets deployed' to help Iraq fight Isis