August 2, 2019

Did the Iraqi Air Force revert to the Saddam-era roundel?

Top: C-130J-30 transport aircraft / Bottom: King Air 350ER reconnaissance platform

In the above photographs, taken from the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page, it appears that the Iraqis have decided to re-apply the old traditional roundel* on at least some of it military aircraft.

The Iraqi roundel used from 1931 to the end of 2003 is a green triangle with a stylized Arabic letter jim in red, with the required dot that is part of the letter in white, representing the Arabic word jaysh, or army.

The Iraqis discontinued use of this particular insignia in 2003 when the Iraqi Air Force ceased to exist following the American invasion. It was felt that the roundel had become identified with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Husayn.

The "new" Iraqi Air Force recommenced operations in 2004. It adopted this new roundel at that time - it is still in use today.

I was surprised to see the former green triangle insignia on these two aircraft. The C-130J-30 photo was posted on the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page today; the King Air 350ER photo was posted on July 31.

The green triangle "roundel" is not actually associated with Saddam Husayn, but I needed a catchy title, and most people do make the connection. The insignia has been in use from 1931, when the air force was established as the Royal Iraqi Air Force.

At that time, the Kingdom of Iraq was still a League of Nations mandate (which it became in 1920), administered by the United Kingdom until Iraqi independence in 1932.

The first batch of five Iraqi pilots received their aviation training at RAF Cranwell, returning to Iraq on April 22, 1931. This is recognized as the official date of the founding of the Iraqi Air Force.

Here is a photo of an Iraqi Air Force Hawker Audax reconnaissance aircraft, circa 1932. Note the green triangle insignia on the wings and fuselage.

Iraqi Hawker Audax ("Nisr")

The green triangle "roundel" has been a part of the Iraqi Air Force's 88-year history. Slightly different versions have been used on other pieces of military equipment.

When I was assigned as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces Directorate General of Military Intelligence in 1988, they provided me with a duffel bag with this logo. Arabic speakers will easily recognize the Arabic letter jim (for jaysh, or army).

Since the roundel/insignia is clearly not associated with Saddam Husayn or the Ba'ath Party, and was used on Iraqi military aircraft since before the country's independence from the United Kingdom, no one should be offended or alarmed by its use.

That said, I would expect the Iraqis to announce the re-adoption of the roundel, the national insignia. There is nothing to be ashamed of here - it is a legacy going back over 80 years.


* A roundel is national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colors. Here is the roundel used on U.S. military aircraft. There are also subdued monochromatic variations for low-visibility.