US Transfers Ownership Of 11 Cessnas
US forces in Baghdad transferred ownership of 11 aircraft to the
Iraqi air force this week, during a ceremony at New Al Muthana Air
Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of Multinational Security
Transition Command Iraq, signed over eight Cessna 172s and three
Cessna 208 Caravans worth more than $9 million to Iraqi Defense
Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Mufriji.
US Air Force Brig. Gen. Brooks L. Bash said the aircraft would
be part of the Iraqi air force's training program at Kirkuk Air
Base in northern Iraq. Similar to the way the US Air Force conducts
its own training, the smaller Cessna 172 Skyhawk is the initial
aircraft Iraqi pilots will learn to fly, while the Caravan is the
more advanced, graduated version, the commander of coalition air
force training in Iraq added.
Bash noted the ubiqitous Cessna 172 is the first aircraft he
learned to fly almost 33 years ago. "The Cessna 172 is very special
to me, because it was the first aircraft I ever flew," he said.
"And still today, it's the first aircraft pilots in the United
States Air Force fly, and now it's the first aircraft Iraqi air
force pilots will fly."
Bash praised the Iraqi air force for the success it's already
had. During the past four months, the air force participated in
major coalition operations in Basra and Mosul and in Baghdad's Sadr
The Iraqi air force is an important part of the declining attack
levels in those areas and throughout the country, the general
Bash said Iraqi security would continue benefiting from its air
force with the new fleet of Cessnas. The additional aircraft will
allow more than 130 new pilots to train and graduate each year.
"As of now, the Iraqi air force is just beginning to grow," he
said. "They will double in size within the next year, giving them
up to 6,000 airmen and 133 aircraft by the end of 2009."
In addition, the King Air intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance aircraft and King Air light transport aircraft were
unveiled during the ceremony. The aircraft were purchased by Iraq's
Defense Ministry, making the country the first in the world with
this type of capability, Bash said.
Bash said the King Air ISR represents the future of
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. It provides
the latest technology and capabilities in camera-intelligence and
surveillance gathering, he added.
The addition of the new aircraft and additional assets to the
Iraqi force "signifies the strong partnership between Iraq and
United States," he said. "It also represents the strength and
growth of Iraqi forces as they continue to fight terrorism and
provide security and new capabilities to their country."
(Aero-News thanks Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden,
American Forces Press Service)