Saturday, June 28, 2014

Iraqi Military Receives Much Needed Airpower...From Russia

Within the last six hours or so, news that broken (backed up by video evidence) that the Iraqi military has received much needed military equipment for their ongoing fighting with the terrorist group/army ISIS.

This military tech is in the form of the first combat jet aircraft to be delivered to Iraq since Saddam was in power..But now in the form you might have expected.

Instead of coming from the US, these combat jets appear to have come via Russia (whether from Russian or Belarusian stocks in unknown). See the video below for the delivery of said aircraft:

Su-25s Arrive in Iraq

Specifically, the aircraft in question are at least two Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" ground attack aircraft. These aircraft were developed by the Soviets during the 70's and 80's as something of a counterpart to the American A-10 Warthog.

As something of an aviation buff, I'll give you a brief overview of this aircraft and why its delivery could be vital to the Iraqi government's struggle against ISIS forces:

While often compared to the A-10, the two aircraft are not strictly comparable. They were built for slightly different missions.

The A-10 was designed to be the ultimate "tank-buster", capable of dealing out incredible damage to prospective Soviet armor and also provide excellent close-air support.

The Su-25 on the other hand was designed as more a close-air support aircraft first, and a relatively able "tank-buster" second (only did later, post-Cold War variants develop the same type of armament flexibility that has been seen on A-10s since they entered production). They were first put to the test during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989) and proved themselves to be excellent CAS aircraft and far superior to any previous Soviet design.

These aircraft can be loaded down with up to 4 metric tons of ordnance in addition to a twin-30mm cannon capable of firing 3000 rounds per minute. Like the American A-10, they are have a "titanium bathtub" that provides the cockpit/pilot with a high-degree of protection from anti-aircraft guns/cannons, but the aircraft is not quite as well armored overall as the A-10. In exchange though, the Su-25 is considerably faster (thus allowing to engage/disengage its target faster and exposing itself to enemy fire for shorter periods of time).

By now, you probably see why such an aircraft could so valuable to the fledgling Iraqi Air Force/Army Air Corps. Such aircraft allow for much more powerful strikes against ground targets and are more likely to survive such engagements than the armed helicopters Iraqi forces have been forced to use. In other words, these Su-25s are probably the best aircraft possible (besides the A-10) to better deal with an asymmetrical forces like ISIS.

Of course, the troubling bit is, where these aircraft have come from. There have been rumors for days that Iraq was reportedly getting some aircraft from Russia (or with Russia's help) and even reports of Iran supplying aircraft to fight ISIS. Whether these aircraft are from Russia or Belarus (who has made quite a name for themselves in selling surplus Soviet-era aircraft to less-than-friendly countries all over the world), they were no doubt sold with Russia assistance/influence. This, in a way, bring the relationship between Iraq and Russia full circle. Russia (along with France) was the primary supplier of arms during Iraq's long war with Iran (1980-1988), during which Iraq become the first non-Warsaw Pact operator of the Su-25. During the 1991 Gulf War, the Allied forces destroyed many of these aircraft, some fled to Iran and the rest were eventually buried in the sand just prior to the US invasion in 2003 (for reasons that boggle the mind). Now, these same kind of aircraft have returned to Iraq after a 11 year absence to fight a very different foe than before and one that these aircraft are perfectly suited for.

The revival of military ties between Iraq and Russia (which had already begun before the ISIS invasion of Iraq), has become much more pronounced. The fact that Russia was so quick to provide much needed military equipment to Iraq's military while the US has only provided limited assistance (which includes no combat equipment, just "advisors" and recon flights), is a lesson unlikely to be forgotten by the Iraqi government...

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