The skies over Iraq for 11 years were the exclusive province of U.S. Forces-Iraq. But, after American personnel withdrew at the end of 2011, the nascent Iraqi Air Force was not up to the task of securing the country’s skies.
From 2012 to the emergence of the Army of the Islamic State, the lack of air cover meant that Iran could resupply its client President Bashir Assad in Syria with a logistical air bridge over Iraq. Although, this was an affront to Iraqi sovereignty and the stated goals of the United States, it was treated as a benign side effect of our shagging out of the region.
Saddam Hussein’s regime, overthrown in 2003, had a serious air force, but the dictator arranged permission from the Iranians to harbor his warplanes in Iran when the U.S.-led coalition invaded. But, when Hussein called for his warplanes to enter the fight, the Iranians told him: “Planes? What planes?”
Now that the Army of the Islamic State was upgraded to the terrorist varsity, there is a need for the IAF to project air power to strike IS forces in the field and to support their own soldiers on the ground.
This video produced by Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Manz gives a great look at the Arizona Air National Guard work training up Iraqi jet pilots to retake their nation’s skies.
Watch the video here: